Air New Zealand evening flights plan welcomed

Simulated evening flight airport approach

Queenstown Airport Acting CEO Mike Clay has welcomed the announcement by Air New Zealand that it will begin evening flights in winter 2016 if approved by regulators.

Mr Clay said the planned evening flights will bring more choice and flexibility for residents and strongly boost the region’s tourism sector.

“Queenstown Airport has been paving the way for evening flights for several years to facilitate a safe and smooth introduction so we’re delighted it’s now one step closer to fruition.  We have worked closely with Air New Zealand and other partners and we thank them for the effort and resources they have committed to broaden the choice for our airport users.”

The introduction of evening flights will maximise the airport’s current consented operating hours (6am-10pm) during the winter months and reduce peak-time pressure on its facilities and services which have been experiencing sustained growth in passenger and traffic volumes.

The airport’s latest monthly statistics show total passenger movements topped 1.5 million last calendar year - a record for a 12-month period - and were up 14.3 per cent on the previous year.

Mr Clay said that introducing evening flights during the winter months was part of the airport’s long term development plan to respond to strong demand from people wanting to experience New Zealand’s stunning southern region.

“Evening flights will help spread the airport’s peak times more evenly which will improve people’s experience, it will give them more flexibility and connectivity across airline networks, and will create a significant number of job opportunities for our community.”

Mr Clay said that the proposed increase in Air New Zealand’s domestic flight schedule would, in effect, be like extending the current summer flight window between Auckland and Queenstown.

“For domestic leisure travellers it will make a weekend break possible year-round and for business travellers it will mean more flexibility, potentially enabling them to do a return day trip instead of having to stay overnight.  It will also mean better international connectivity for all travellers through Auckland,” he said.

The airport is well down the track of implementing stringent safety measures to make evening flights a reality which were among conditions set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) when approving the airport’s evening flights safety case in May 2014.

An $18m runway and lighting infrastructure upgrade commenced in November 2015 and is due to be completed in April.  This work includes:

  • Widening the main runway to 45 metres from its current 30 metres
  • Resurfacing the runway with a 110mm thick asphalt overlay and lateral surface grooving to improve friction
  • Improved navigational infrastructure through the installation of a comprehensive aeronautical lighting package (runway, taxiway, approach and apron lights).

More people are expected to be employed within the airport community as a ‘split-shift’ operating model is introduced to cater for the extended operating window.  This will add to the 350-strong team already working in and around Queenstown Airport.

For more information about evening flights visit www.queenstownairport.co.nz/eveningflights

To view the Air New Zealand press release visit www.airnewzealand.co.nz/press-release-2016-air-new-zealand-to-start-queenstown-night-flights.