BY JAMES WILKINSON
Air New Zealand has added a number of domestic flights to key leisure and MICE destinations for the 2012-13 southern hemisphere summer, including resuming services to Mount Cook.
Flights between Rotorua and Queenstown, via Christchurch, have been upgraded to a Boeing 737 service, while Mount Cook services are being resumed for the first time in a decade, during December 2012 and January 2013.
Air New Zealand last operated flights from Christchurch to Mount Cook in February 2002 and the airline’s Group General Manager – Australasia, Bruce Parton, said the trial run would also include services to Queenstown.
“The decision to launch this seasonal service comes after a lot of combined effort from Christchurch Airport CEO Jim Boult, Hermitage Chairman John Davies and Air New Zealand to make the route feasible,” he said.
“This new route is a credit to the drive and perseverance of both Jim and John. They have had the vision and belief in this regional development and we have been proud to listen and support them with this.”
Parton said Air New Zealand would operate the Christchurch-Mt Cook-Queenstown route, using 68-seat ATR 72 aircraft, for six weeks from December 23, 2012 and January 27, 2013.
Air New Zealand was expecting the route to be popular with the Japanese inbound market over the peak summer period.
“It will make it easier for groups to stay overnight at Mt Cook and also make day trips possible to the region, something we expect will be a particularly popular option for visitors on cruise ships arriving into the area over the summer months,” Parton said.
“The connection through to Queenstown will also provide independent travellers who may only have a short amount of time with a quick and easy way of visiting several of the South Island’s key tourism regions.”
The 40 minute flight from Christchurch will operate three times per week and Parton said it has been timed to connect with the Tokyo-Christchurch arrival and morning services from Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington.
Air New Zealand’s upgrading of the Rotorua-Queenstown service means a 27% increase in seats to Christchurch and a 14% increase onto Queenstown.
“Whilst it’s some months away, we wanted to announce this initiative now to inform the industry and allow inbound tour operators to build the new service into their itineraries, which often have long lead-times,” Parton said.