Air New Zealand plans more Nelson-Auckland seats

Sarah Williamson checks out a new ATR72-600 aircraft, built for Air New Zealand, near Toulouse, in France. Capacity on Air New Zealand flights between Nelson and Auckland is tipped to increase by 8 per cent in the 12 months from October.

Air New Zealand regional airlines general manager Sarah Williamson said a new schedule was due to be introduced in October, which would include swapping some 50-seat Q300 aircraft for 68-seat ATR72 planes, increasing capacity on the route by about 8 per cent.

"That 8 per cent will be over the next 12 months but the most significant part of that change is October," Williamson said from Toulouse in France where Air New Zealand took delivery of a new ATR72-600 aircraft.

When asked if the increased capacity was in reaction to greater competition on the route from other airlines, Williamson said no.

Air NZ had looked at sectors with the potential for growth.

"So when we moved, for instance, from the [19-seat] Beech to the Q300, we looked at sectors that we thought would grow and we transitioned the 19-seater on to the 50 seater," she said. "The nice thing about that is that you have the same level of frequency but you all of a sudden have additional seats in the marketplace.

"We're working hard to put on additional capacity where we think there's the potential for that additional capacity to sell and the Nelson-Auckland market is one of those markets."

Nelson had some unique features.

"It's at the top of the South Island so to get anywhere north, you have to fly or take a boat so I think that means that Nelsonians are probably much more likely to fly than you might find in other parts of New Zealand," Williamson said. "There are probably people who live in Nelson because it's such a great place to live and commute to other places to work so there's probably a bit of a commuter set of people as well."

Nelson was important to Air NZ. As well as a growing area, it was home to the company's Regional Maintenance base and Air Nelson, which operates the Q300 aircraft.

 - Stuff