28 September 2015

North Shore Air - Auckland's North Shore Connection



Having held a pilot’s licence for over 30 years, Peter Newman, a Kerikeri and North Shore businessman, established Newmans Air Ltd on the 21st of May 2014. Later in the year the company purchased Piper Pa31 Navajo ZK-JGA which was registered to the company on the 11th of December 2014. 

North Shore Air founder and CEO, Peter Newman
After an extensive refurbishment of the Navajo the company began operating charter work from mid-2015 trading as North Shore Air. Two pilots have been employed Daryl Williamson, the company’s Chief Pilot, and Andrew Underwood. Heather Andrews, from Aviation Safety Management Systems, is the Quality Assurance Manager and Carrol Newman is the Office Manager. North Shore Air have also taken over and freshly renovated Great Barrier Airlines’ terminal at North Shore Airport. For locals the company also offers free parking right outside their terminal.



In September North Shore announced its intention to operate scheduled services from North Shore to both Tauranga and Kerikeri. In particular the airline is seeking to provide an alternative airline service for North Shore residents who have need to battle the inner city traffic getting to and from Auckland International Airport. The company's plans feature an early morning and late afternoon flight will be scheduled to Tauranga and back, with one mid-morning return flight to Kerikeri in between with the flight in both directions taking 40 minutes. The company also announced that it was an approved shuttle operator enabling it to use the northern busway ensuring quick access to and from the Auckland CBD during peak traffic. 



The initial advertised one way fare between North Shore and Tauranga or Kerikeri was set at $249 for adults, and $124.50 for children aged between 2 and 12 years old. The shuttle pickup or drop off can be requested at the time of booking at $15 from the CBD, $12 from Smales Farm and $10 from Albany. Passengers are given a 15kg standard baggage allowance plus carry on. Speaking on the $249 one way fare Peter Newman was reported as saying, “It might be on the high side compared with some of the cheaper Air New Zealand fares, but they are offering the convenience of direct connections for the expanding North Shore catchment.” The fares were later dropped to $195 one way with an introductory fare of $149 one way.




Scheduled services started on the morning of the 28th of September 2015 with Piper Pa31 Navajo ZK-JGA flying from North Shore to Tauranga and return under the command of Daryl Williamson and Andrew Underwood.

Daryl and Andrew in their office

North Shore Air's Piper Pa31 Navajo ZK-JGA taken at Tauranga on 28 September 2015 on the first day of scheduled services
Bypassing the Auckland traffic jam on the way back to North Shore

More photos of the first day of services can be found here : http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/09/wet-start-for-north-shore-air.html

The first North Shore to Kerikeri service was operated on the 4th of October 2015. The service was flown under the command of Chief Pilot Daryl Williamson in the company's Piper Navajo ZK-JGA. Mainland Air's 10-seat Piper Chieftain, ZK-VIP, was expected to join the fleet but it only ever flew one service for North Shore Air on the 6th of October 2015.

The timetable was changed on the 21st of October with the North Shore-Tauranga service reduced to operating four days a week on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays but with an improved timing of the afternoon flights for those who wanted to do a full day of business in Tauranga or Auckland. At the same time the Kerikeri service was reduced to three days a week on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays.

The revised timetable effective 21 October 2015

Over Labour weekend North Shore Air's website and Facebook page were taken down as was the signage at North Shore Airport. It was subsequently announced that the airline would cease its scheduled services on the 30th of October 2015 but that it could remain open for charter flights. In excellent coverage Peter Newman was reported on SunLive as saying, “Our scheduled flights never got the numbers required to break even, so basically it's all gone a bit pear shaped. But there's no easy way. It was either pull out while we could manage an exit, or wait until we hit the wall.” North Shore Air were hoping to see a minimum of three-to-four passengers on each eight-seater flight, but often took off with just single passengers on board. “It was a heavy hit, and we just don't have deep enough pockets to hang in there for much longer.” Peter admits there was also resistance to the $195 one way fare. “People expect the airfares of be $80-$95 at most. At $195, it was just way out of line. “I'd say 50 per cent didn't want to operate on that fare schedule. A few years ago the fares were more realistic, but just lately there's been an expectation for fares to be really low.”

Piper Navajo ZK-JGA operated the final North Shore-Tauranga-North Shore flight on the 30th of October 2015.

It is always sad to see an airline end its services. North Shore Air's concept was excellent. In my opinion there were three factors that led to this. The first was the fares. As Peter Newman said people thought $195 was too high. This is certainly true for leisure travellers but for business people it was not unreasonable especially if people wanted to avoid the Auckland traffic jam. With that in mind it was always going to take time to build the service and I don't think the lead in time between being granted their Airline Air Operator Certificate and starting service was sufficient to build knowledge of the service. Also the initial afternoon Tauranga timetable wasn't conducive for business traffic. So sadly North Shore Air has ended its service. While they weren't able to make a go of it maybe someone else will try.

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