|Westport News, 4 April 1984|
10 April 2016
The National Carrier at Westport - Part 2 - Air New Zealand
On the 1st of April 1978 the National Airways Corporation merged with Air New Zealand. At that time Air New Zealand was operating 12 Fokker Friendship flights a week through Westport, with Sunday to Friday services to Wellington via Nelson and Christchurch via Hokitika. It was about this time that Air New Zealand were gradually increasing its fleet of the larger 48 seat 500 series Friendship to replace some of the older 40-seat 100 series.
In 1980 the company needed to trim its international and domestic schedules because of worsening economics. At this time the Nelson-Westport sector had an average load factor of 60.2%; Westport-Hokitika 41.9% and Hokitika-Christchurch 65.3%. Air New Zealand proposed reducing flights to Westport to a thrice weekly direct service from Wellington. The proposal was later amended with Air New Zealand agreeing to continue operating a Wellington-Westport-Hokitika-Christchurch service on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The changes took effect from the 27th of October 1980. The loss of the Nelson-West Coast connection was a sad result of the changes as Cook Strait Airways had pioneered the Nelson-Westport-Greymouth-Hokitika route in 1937.
On the 30th of October 1983 Air New Zealand reintroduced Sunday services through Westport to both Wellington and Christchurch. There was a good response to the Sunday service and so a year later, from the 29th of October 1984, the Westport services were increased to six flights a week operated on Sundays through to Fridays to both Wellington and Christchurch.
Air New Zealand's Regional Manager, said. "The move to add additional flights is a response by the airline to a healthy growth in passenger demand over the last year."
The Friendships continued to serve Westport on this schedule until 1988. In mid-September of that year Air New Zealand announced that it had bought a half share in Air Nelson. Air Nelson were to acquire two 19-seat Fairchild Metroliner III aircraft and take over Air New Zealand’s West Coast services to Hokitika and Westport.
The final Air New Zealand Friendship services were flown to Westport on Sunday the 30th of October 1988. The final southbound flight, NZ703, was flown to Christchurch under the command of Captain David McDonald and First Officer First Officer Francis van Woerkom in ZK-BXI. The northern flight to Wellington was flown by ZK-BXE.
Posted by Steve L at 6:00 AM