• Video: Want to fly directly to another regional centre? This is what Air New Zealand says needs to happen!

Video: Want to fly directly to another regional centre? This is what Air New Zealand says needs to happen!

Air New Zealand has laid out what is needed for it to have regular flights directly from Napier to other regional centres without having to go through Auckland or Wellington.

Currently Air New Zealand operates just under 250 flights out of and into Napier, with about  140 with Auckland, about 45 with Christchurch, and close to 60 for Wellington.

Many of these flights are merely the first step for Hawke’s Bay travellers, who then have to connect another flight to other regional centres like Tauranga.

Hawke’s Bay App asked Air New Zealand’s GM Domestic, Iain Walker, what was stopping the airline flying directly between the Hawke’s Bay Airport in Napier and other regional centres like New Plymouth and Tauranga.

According to Walker, it is a simple case of economics.

“One of the reasons for that is our smallest aircraft is 50 seats. So for us to be able to operate a regular service, we need enough people flying that every day to fill 50 seats each way. And so when we look at opportunities like that, we would love to fly it, but there's just not enough passengers flying that to be able to cover the cost of flying that service.”

“We do look towards opportunities like that in the future with our next generation aircraft, but that's still a little way off as we look at the technology and what that brings.”

“Our focus has been about, particularly as we recover from COVID, how do we rebuild the services to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and then look at opportunities from there.”

Asked what could be done about bottlenecks and delays that seem to occur frequently in Auckland.

“We have a real focus on our operational reliability and on time performance. I'd say that the main reason for delay or cancellation is unfortunately due to weather. And so, we work closely of how we can mitigate around that or recover flights later on. But also anything in our control, how do we make sure that we make it the most reliable service?”

“As an example, we actually have two engineers that are based in the Hawke's Bay region so that if we have any aircraft, have any unforeseen issues, they're on hand and able to help get that aircraft back on track as quickly as possible.”

Asked about what Air NZ is doing about keeping pricing affordable, Walker said the airline says: “We aren't immune to the high cost to operate like Kiwis and their businesses around the country that we're seeing costs go through inflation, particularly as we go through COVID.

“And so we don't publicly share our specific numbers, but as you've heard in the media recently, our costs are actually increasing faster than the fares have since pre-COVID. And so we just need to work closely to make sure that our fares are reflective of the costs that are to operate there. As an example, fuel is a large one for us and we've all seen how the price at the pump has increased. And so we are not immune to that either.”

Walker said the best advice to booking a flight was to book early.

“Generally how we allocate our prices is, we allocate our fares to the seats of the aircraft. So the lowest fares go to the first seat sold on the aircraft and the last seat sold go to the higher airfares, with the intention that the average of those fares sold cover the cost of the flight. And so my best recommendation is if you are able to plan early, I know that's not always possible, but to book early and you'll get the best deal.”

The issue of domestic airline prices come as the NZ Airports Association is calling for the introduction of domestic airfare and airline performance monitoring to provide greater transparency for consumers, amid record high domestic airfares.

Chief Executive Billie Moore says: “This week’s data from Stats NZ shows domestic airfares were again adding to the cost of living crisis for Kiwis, increasing 7.4% in February compared to January 2024.

“Air New Zealand has upped its domestic airfares yet again, as well as increasing the cost ofadd-ons such as bag check by $10. It’s flagged that other costs, like checking in your pet, could also be in for a future price hike.

“This is incredibly difficult for domestic and regional travellers. They’re already frustrated about how much they’re having to pay to fly, as well as high cancellation rates for Air New Zealand in some regions.”

“The Government has the tools to take action. The legislative work is already done - the new Civil Aviation Act 2023 provides the Ministry of Transport with the information-gathering power to set up an independent airfare monitoring process.

“Let’s start now to ensure we have appropriate scrutiny on airline performance and pricing and consumers can see for themselves if they are getting a fair deal, now and in the future.”


Watch the accompanying video so see the full interview with Iain Walker.