News from NZ Airports Assn
Businesses in New Zealand’s regional centres are suffering as a result of cutbacks in services by Air New Zealand, and the national flag carrier needs to clarify its policy regarding flights to smaller centres, says the NZ Airports Association.
The association, whose members operate 31 airports spanning the country, is concerned that Air New Zealand is pursuing a strategy of axing services to regional centres such as Masterton and Wanganui.
Those decisions have angered businesses and residents alike, with the announcement the airline is to drop the Masterton-Auckland route prompting angry Wairarapa residents to create a Facebook page entitled “Keep Masterton-Auckland Air NZ route”. The page attracted more than 1000 “likes” in the first 24 hours after it was set up.
Kevin Ward, Chief Executive of NZ Airports, says that his association shares the concerns that a national airline, which is majority state-owned, it withdrawing its commitment to the regions.
“Air New Zealand needs to explain its strategy – how does it decide to make the changes, what are the key reasons, is overall capacity going up or down? Is there a problem with the Beech 1900 fleet?
“There is a fear that a move to bigger aircraft such as new ATRs will mean smaller centres will lose out.
“Already, we are seeing the provincial economies suffer. We know the flight reductions have a negative effect on the regions, as the reaction to the Masterton route axing demonstrates.
“It is understandable that people in the Wairarapa, in Wanganui and on the West Coast are asking questions about how Air NZ juggles its fleet around the regions, cancelling less-profitable routes and expanding others.
“While they understand that an airline must run with commercial objectives in mind, they fear that even a moderately-profitable route will be replaced if there is a better profit available elsewhere. That means that there is no long-term commitment to air services which have been vital in nurturing business and employment opportunities.
“The regions need some clarity about the policy Air NZ is pursuing.”
Mr Ward said that questions should also be asked about the very high air fares Air NZ maintains to regional centres.
“In the Masterton example, one user of the service talked of ticket prices climbing towards $700 return. Fares of that magnitude, charged by a monopoly operator on the route, choke air travel to smaller centres and affect their economies.
“The regions deserve some explanations from Air NZ of what lies ahead in terms of a commitment to provincial services.”
NZ Airports is the industry association for New Zealand’s airports and related businesses. It is a not-for-profit organisation.