05 May 2017

The cost of regional air fares...

Blenheim people travelling to Nelson to dodge high airfares is an ongoing issue, and the council says only Air New Zealand can change that. A quick online search reveals it is cheaper to fly from Auckland to Dunedin than fly from Blenheim to Christchurch, prompting the drive over the hill for cheaper flights. But despite a resounding 'no' last week the council has not given up on Air New Zealand coming to the table. Destination Marlborough has also be dragged into the debate, with a local councillor asking if the tourism body would consider subsidising airfares. Destination Marlborough chairman Nigel Gould said while the expensive flights to and from Marlborough Airport were frustrating, no local body would usually get involved in subsidising airfares. "That's an Air New Zealand issue," he said. Two airlines fly out of the airport, Sounds Air and Air New Zealand. Gould believed the high cost was due to it being more expensive to fly a smaller plane than a larger one. Larger planes were not something he would broach with smaller airline Sounds Air, but was something that could be raised with air New Zealand. "It is a size issue," he said. "A bigger plane typically is lower cost per seat." Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said discussions about cost with Air New Zealand were ongoing. In May last year, Air New Zealand said it had phased out the use of smaller 19-seat planes in and out of Marlborough in favour of Bombardier Q300s 50-seater aircraft. However, the airline would not say if fares went down as a result. Marlborough Airport chief executive Dean Heiford said the next size up would be the ATR-600 aircraft, which could take 72 passengers. The airport could cater for them, if Air New Zealand decided to introduce them, Heiford said. There was constant communication between Air New Zealand and Destination Marlborough and Air New Zealand and the Marlborough District Council about airline issues, Gould said. The other problem Destination Marlborough planned to address was the five-hour gap in Blenheim-Wellington flights each day. Considering flights before and after those times were at capacity, Gould believed there was room for at least one more flight from either of those airlines in that timeframe. "It would be great to have at least one return [flight] from somebody during that period." An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline would continue to assess interest in travel to and from Blenheim. The company would review its schedule to ensure it matched capacity and frequency with customer demand, she said.


  1. Sounds Air, a local airline fly that route now. So shouldn't the question be about them having a monoply on the route ignoring the realities of operating a small number of seats to spread the cost?

    Chucking in a reference to a flight with 170 seats AKL-DUD to compare with BHE-CHC, although they were stabbing at Air NZ (So via WLG) is a nice little apple next to an orange. And then they didn't even bother to actually mention the price comparison. Shoddy journalism trying to stir the pot.

  2. Larger planes, hey great. But look where blenheim built its terminal... at peak times it's already at capacity. Add in diverted flights and it quickly becomes a mess.

    Larger planes will lower the per seat cost. Moving from 19 to 50 seaters has indeed done this, I fly from BHE a lot and not only is the flying experience better it is cheaper than it used to be..

  3. I fly in and out of Blenheim twice a week, regularly we have passengers changing at Wellington to then fly onto Christchurch up to 28 i believe. There are loads of tradesman and workers flying this route. Sounds air is often booked out so far ahead it is not possible to fly with them. But I don't think air Nz should come on and cut sounds air off when air Nz would just pull out of this route once load sizes reduce.
    It's probably not profitable but the next best thing would be for sounds air to acquire a b 1900 or jet stream ??? Food for thought I guess

  4. Sounds Air are doing a terrific job and increasing the frequency to meet demand. Rather than the MDC trying to encourage airnz back after they dropped it for good reason, why not encourage Sounds Air to get a larger machine or more PC-12's and really ramp it up. Support your own MDC!!!

  5. Air NZ want's to have consistency in loads like 28 plus paxs for each flight on the BHE/CHC/BHE route to support a Q300 and they have told both MDC and Destination Marlborough.

    Its up to MDC and Destination Marlborough to sort the problem out instead of the airlines namely Air NZ.

    At least Soundsair is providing regular services to meet the business market. I don't see Soundsair operating a 19 seater, as Andrew Crawford is being financially prudent by operating 2 aircraft types - the Caravans and P12's to keep Soundsair economically viable.