New Plymouth and Nelson are closer neighbours thanks to new direct air link
New Plymouth residents thinking of a short weekend getaway to one of the South Island's major tourist regions can now do so in the same time it takes to drive to Hawera.
A new 50 minute direct air link between New Plymouth and Nelson is expected to bring more business and tourism opportunities for both regions, New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom said.
Holdom was at New Plymouth airport on Friday to welcome passengers off the Originair midday flight.
The Nelson-based airline has scheduled four flights a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday between the two cities using an 18-seater BA Jetstream 31.
One way ticket prices rage from the $199 Saver to $279 Flexi Plus, with $99 specials also available.
"It's a fantastic addition to the airline services in and out of the region," Holdom said.
"We now have three airlines scheduling flights from New Plymouth, and Originair is the only direct service between Nelson and New Plymouth.
"We are hopeful it will open up more business connections and tourism opportunities with Nelson."
Holdom, a keen mountain biker, said he was looking forward packing his cycle and heading off for a weekend trip to experience the trails around Nelson.
He hoped Nelson mountain bikers would take the same opportunity to visit the trail network in Taranaki.
"It's a special market and it is going to develop further with the help of direct transport links as Originair have provided."
Holdom said the arrival of Originair in New Plymouth had been commercial decision by airport shareholder, New Plymouth District Council, to promote regional economic growth.
Currently there are 435,000 passenger movements annually through the airport.
"We have transport links by land, sea and air so the more people coming in and out of the region, the better it is for business," he said.
Originair chief executive Robert Inglis said the new service was performing to expectations after one week.
"It will take two to three months to get consistent support but at the moment it is performing well," he said.
"We hope it will serve the weekend market who don't want to spend a long time getting to their destination.
"If they know they can get to Nelson, or New Plymouth, in under an hour they know they can have more time to explore the region."
Originair charter and group bookings manager Gary Jeffcott said the company wanted the service to be long-term.
"After a week of operating from New Plymouth it is looking promising and we will review flights as we get nearer to summer," he said.
Jeffcott said the Nelson - New Plymouth link was a logical "next step" to develop after the company's air service between Nelson and Palmerston North.
Forward reservations on the route are already higher than for when Originair launched the successful Nelson - Palmerston North service in 2015, he said.
"We are looking to expand our services and New Plymouth was a good step for us to develop.
"There are good tourism opportunities between the regions, and the West Coast is also an option to visit.
"With Taranaki still riding the wave of being named as one of Lonely Planet's top two regions in the world to visit, we need to look closely at how we can make the most of this market."
Originair passengers taking advantage of the new flights in and out of New Plymouth supported the new direct link.
Paul McLean, of Hawera, was visiting an ill friend in his home town, Nelson.
He was among 11 passengers departing New Plymouth on Friday.
"I was weighing up the cost options of driving to Wellington and getting the ferry across, or flying," he said.
"I booked a one way ticket for $179 last week and it suited my plans."
McLean said he would use the service again.
"It looks a cheaper option all round if you book early."
Mike Te Whata arrived in New Plymouth from Nelson with his family after attending a national gymnastics competition.
They were among seven passengers arriving in New Plymouth.
"I'm from Nelson originally and have been living in New Plymouth for the past three years,"" he said.
"I flew down on another airline through Auckland earlier in the week and it took three hours.
"This is a wonderful service and I will be using it again."
Adventure tourism student Heavenly Kieft was flying back to Nelson to continue the final semester of her year-long course.
"If the flight was not available I would have had to drive down to Wellington and catch the ferry across to Picton, and then take a bus to Nelson."
- Taranaki Daily News