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."  

Westport News, 4 April 1984
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. 

4 comments:

  1. Great post thanks Steve

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  2. I wrote it ages ago and realised after it was posted that I didn't have any copies of the Air NZ Westport timetables in it. Never managed to find a photo of an Air NZ Friendship at Westport. Unfortunately I have very little spare time to do the research for these monthly profiles of current and historical airline operations and so this might well be the last!

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  3. And yet still no F27 photo taken at WSZ!!!! Oh my Stephen.....
    Let this not be your last historical review - you need to find a job giving you some 'free time' - talk to the Boss!

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  4. I'm sure I remember framed photo of a friendship at Westport in the old terminal there, I wonder if it is still around there somewhere...

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