Air New Zealand has announced it will operate up to 10 new weekly flights between Auckland and Tauranga by the end of the year. The airline is also reinstating the 6.05 am service from Tauranga to Christchurch.
Air New Zealand described the region as a "significant growth market" and said it would operate up to 80,000 additional seats to and from Tauranga in 2017.
Tourism BOP chief executive Kristin Dunne said she was thrilled with the news.
"Any increase in access to the city and the region is fantastic," she said. "This is very positive from our perspective. Air NZ is absolutely seeing the value in our region."
Tauranga Airport, Tauranga City Council and Tourism Bay of Plenty had regular meetings with the airline and were always discussing how to improve services, said Ms Dunne.
JetStar decided last year not to add Tauranga to its new regional offering. But Ms Dunne said she did not think that had a major bearing on Air New Zealand's latest announcement.
"This is a demonstration of the fact they are very positive about the growth in the region and how significant it is for them."
Tauranga Airport manager Ray Dumble said the decision was good news, especially for the business community. Details of the timing of the new flights were not yet available, but they would include adding an extra flight before 9am, bringing the total to two, and were also expected to fill a couple of holes in the afternoon schedule.
"The Auckland flights, in particular, will give people a real choice as they can now do either a full or a half day up there," he said. "That's a biggie. It's becoming a bus service and that's what the business community wants."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said it was welcome news for the business community. "Especially the reinstatement of the early Christchurch flight. We're pleased to see Air New Zealand responding to demand and adding more options for the travelling public and business people," he said.
"Keeping fares competitive and schedules convenient for business travellers should translate into benefits for everyone."
In its announcement, which includes changes to other regional services, Air New Zealand said it was making the adjustments as a result of feedback on the revised domestic schedule it issued earlier this year.
"The new schedules have been generally well received by customers, although a couple of communities raised concerns around new peak business flight timings," said general manager networks Richard Thomson.
"A strength of our business is the emphasis we place on consultation and responding to customer feedback. While the response to the new schedule was very positive we have listened carefully to stakeholder and customer feedback and we're pleased to have been able to overcome some key challenges identified in the following communities."
* Air New Zealand is expected to launch its new Tauranga schedule as of October 31, 2016.
Thursday, 02 June 2016
By David Porter