Hamilton Airport welcomes increased passenger numbers
Hamilton Airport's passenger numbers are soaring, reversing the previous trend of passenger decline with growing Auckland congestion playing a part.
The regional airport is experiencing the strongest year-on-year growth in any given month in the last four to five years.
March had the highest monthly passenger numbers recorded within the last four years at 32000 flying from the airport.
CEO Mark Morgan said the bottleneck over the Bombays was among the reasons for the increased passenger numbers.
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"Getting to Auckland Airport from the Waikato is problematic. In terms of the Southern Motorway, you can leave at 5am for an 8am flight and it is questionable if you will arrive on time.
"Business people are reconsidering. Historically they may have driven to Auckland to catch a flight to Wellington or Christchurch but, because of the unpredictable traffic half of their business day could be spent on the road."
Morgan believes the airport is also benefiting from a more positive economy, both regionally and nationally.
"I think there's an increase in tourism and we've seen some benefits from that. We've seen an increase in tour group activity in and out of Hamilton Airport."
There was year-on-year growth from July 2016 to March 2017 of 8 per cent on Air New Zealand services to Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch.
In March 2017 compared to last year there was 20 per cent growth on the same routes for Air New Zealand.
Some recent research by the airport has found that its profile is almost equal between business and leisure traveller.
"Our view, before our research, would have been that we were more heavily weighted towards business travellers than leisure.
"It will certainly change the way we market the airport."
Hamilton Airport has flights to all the main business centres apart from Auckland after Air New Zealand withdrew that service just over a year ago.
Given the problematic accessibility to and from Auckland, Morgan is keen to see this service reinstated at some point.
"Twelve months ago passengers may not have considered flying from Hamilton to Auckland because it was considered driveable, but now the drive could take anywhere between two to three hours so the Hamilton to Auckland flight would have greater appeal.
"We will continue to advocate with Air New Zealand to increase frequency and scheduling. I think the airport is in a much, much stronger position than it was two or three years ago.
"We remain very focused on the regional airport strategy, but I think the challenges Auckland faces, with regards to traffic and infrastructure, will create a lot of future opportunity for Hamilton Airport."
Hamilton stopped being an international airport in 2012 and it has very clear direction from the shareholders and the board that its focus is as a strong regional airport. So there is no consideration to attempting to woo back international services for the time being.
Morgan wants the airport to be more than a place people fly from but also a destination, where people use the venue for conferences or parent groups who can use the cafe Mavis Lounge.