Sounds Air to replace Air NZ on Christchurch to Blenheim route

Sounds Air expects business travellers to fill most of the seats on its new Christchurch to Blenheim route. Regional airline Sounds Air will take up the Christchurch to Blenheim route axed by Air New Zealand.

Sounds Air managing director, Andrew Crawford, said the route was critical to passengers who might otherwise spend hours travelling via Wellington.

The service starts on August 1, flying twice daily Monday to Friday, using nine-seater pressurised Pilatus PC12 turboprop aircraft.

The airline would initially fly up to 180 passengers a week, but lunchtime and weekend flights would be added before the end of the year, lifting weekly capacity to 300 seats.

The starting numbers were "a bit light" but the airline would add more capacity by the end of September, Crawford said.

Most of the passengers would be business travellers wanting daily return flights, but the service would also take hundreds of Marlborough patients to Christchurch for medical appointments.

The local health board indicated a direct link to Christchurch was vital, Crawford said.

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Peter Townsend, welcomed the announcement. He regularly travelled to Blenheim for business and said it was a lot easier to fly up and back rather than make the long return drive in a day.

The air link was also important for the Marlborough wine industry which depended on Christchurch as a source of supplies for vineyards and wine production.

A standard fare booked online would cost $199 but a bulk purchase of 10 fares would cut the price to $189.

Sounds Air has been flying two Pilatus PC12s from Wellington to Westport and Wellington to Taupo - both routes dropped by Air New Zealand.

The Blenheim to Christchurch route was a "natural fit" for the company as a Marlborough-based business, he said.

The airline had no immediate plans for other routes, he said.

In late 2003 Sounds Air had one plane and 14,000 passengers. It expected by the end of 2016 to have nine aircraft and nearly 100,000 passengers.

The airline started 30 years ago and employs more than 60 staff, including 24 pilots, most of whom are based in Wellington.

 - Stuff