Kiwi Regional Airlines takes to the Nelson skies Kiwi Regional Airlines has begun its Nelson flights assuring that its customers should not be concerned about it only having one plane in its fleet.

The airline has one 34-seat twin turbo-prop Saab 340A, but airline chief executive Ewan Wilson it would only fly when it was safe.

"We will clearly try to mitigate any mechanical risks by good maintenance and having spare parts and competent engineers."

He said the airline also has a good relationship with manufacturer Saab, which would be helpful if they required parts.

"If we have a mechanical problem the plane stays on ground until we are able to fix it and passengers will face a disruption," he said.

Ewan Wilson Chief Executive Officer Kiwi Regional Airlines.

Ewan Wilson Chief Executive Officer Kiwi Regional Airlines.

Wilson is not new to the aviation industry - he launched the short-lived airline Kiwi International Airlines about 20 years ago.

It lasted about two years before collapsing in 1996. This time around would be "hugely different", said Wilson in September.

"I'm being careful to avoid direct competition [this time], I've learnt so much [since launching Kiwi International Airlines]."

After a rainy start and a few delays, the airline flew its first passengers between Dunedin, Nelson and Hamilton on Wednesday with around 20 passengers on the flights.

"We had a bit of a weather challenge in Queenstown in the morning with fog in Dunedin, which meant we were late coming out. But the flight went well," said Wilson.

The airline cancelled a Dunedin to Queenstown flight on Wednesday morning due to fog. The passengers were given refunds and then the plane flew from Dunedin to Nelson with a 30-minute delay.

Wilson said he intended to purchase another plane for his fleet within the next 12 months depending on the support the airline gets from the public.

He said Kiwi Regional Airlines was the only company which offered a service where customers' airfare payments were held by a credit card payment facility based in Europe. The airline could not draw those funds until a passenger had travelled.

"If you don't get the service for which you purchased with a credit card we will reimburse you," he said.

He said the passenger numbers on the plane were as he expected and he was encouraged by the interest for direct regional routes.

"[Air New Zealand's earlier] decision to drop some of the regional routes triggered us to review our options. We are confident that we will get support on those routes," he said.

Passenger Elliot Harris, who flew from Dunedin to Nelson on Wednesday, said he was happy with the service given the direct link between Otago University where he studies and his home in Nelson.

"Hopefully they stick around, it's better than taking the bus," he said.

He said the flights worked out to be considerably cheaper than other travel methods between the two cities.

Another passenger from Motueka, Walter Hofmann, was travelling to Hamilton from Nelson on Wednesday. Hofmann said he was thrilled with the choice of direct route because his daughter lives in Hamilton.

"Why make a roundabout trip when you can go direct," he said.

People watch as the first Kiwi Regional Airlines aeroplane arrives at Nelson Airport.

Nelson Airport chief executive Rob Evans said the addition of Kiwi Regional Airlines was another exciting chapter for the airport.

"It's another opportunity for us to network and grow," he said.

Evans said the Dunedin route had plenty of passenger interest and having a plane half full on the airline's first day was "always a good thing".




- Stuff

Jess Pullar 29th October 2015