01 January 2018

Crystal Ball Gazing for 2018

Happy New Year

I hope 2018 is a year of rich possibilities for you and your family

It's time for my annual speculation on the year ahead for our regional air services...

Starting with the big guys...

Air New Zealand
Last year I suggested we had not seen the end of the regional cuts... From what I have heard all the regional ports are growing their loadings. So Timaru and Hokitika might not necessarily be under the microscope, though the present schedule is not great for either of these two ports. The route I wonder about is Hamilton-Palmerston North-Wellington... I often take this flight and I would guess about half the passengers get off at Palmerston North with the rest continuing on to Wellington and so I wonder about the economics of that. Hamilton-Palmerston North is the only inter provincial route for Air NZ. It could be easily relinquished in favour of someone else.

Jetstar did pick up another Q300 last year, VH-Sonny-Bill Williams but no new route was started. Instead there was a reduction of frequencies on some regional routes... Jetstar are returning to the Wellington-Queenstown run this year. Once again, if there is a new route my pick would be Auckland-Tauranga.

The rising stars...

Air Chathams
Air Chats added another Convair freighter, and 2 Metro 23s to their fleet in 2017. They have also announced the purchase of two more Saabs (http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2017/12/2-more-saabs-for-air-chathams.html). So for the Saabs maybe Auckland-Whakatane once the RESA improvements are made at Whakatane. Or, if Air NZ did pull out of Hamilton-Palmerston North the Saab would be ideal with maybe a Hamilton-Nelson in the middle of the day and Hamilton-Auckland to get the aircraft to the engineering base and for an aircraft change. One Saab is supposedly for charter out of Auckland. The Whakatane Metro would then need to look for work so maybe Whanganui-Christchurch or Whakatane-Wellington. I'm still a Masterton fan but the runway there may be problematic. Air Chathams operate a good fare structure so I think a Masterton-Auckland  could work twice a day with a midday service to Christchurch as well. I think more Metro and Convair freight flights could be a goer as well.

Sounds Air
A decision will be made in the early New Year on whether or not to purchase Beech 1900s. This would be a big change for Sounds Air. A Beech 1900, being a twin, will have more passenger appeal but they will need to find work for them. Christchurch-Blenheim will certainly have been built up with the closure of State Highway 1 but will this traffic be sustainable. Westport and Taupo often have full flights especially on Mondays and Fridays but it is not just a matter of swapping aircraft. There is also the matter of crews being trained etc. The question for Sounds Air will be have they got the ability and need to upsize on Westport and/or Taupo or find new routes such as Masterton. A Beech on Oamaru-Wellington would also be interesting. If Air NZ pulled out of Wellington-Palmerston North a Blenheim-Palmerston North might work.

The Steady as She Goes Brigade

Barrier Air 
I really thought Barrier Air was getting a second Caravan towards the end of 2017. I would like to think a second Caravan might still be in the wings but I can't see any room for new routes out of Auckland.

Fly My Sky
They have a model - four Islanders on the Auckland-Great Barrier... It seems to work. Can't see any further development this year.

Over the summer they are operating Ardmore-Great Barrier-Whitianga with one Airvan... If Sunair don't get airborne again they could develop services out of Ardmore and Whitianga and establish Great Barrier links to and from Whangarei and Tauranga

Flight Hauraki
They operate Ardmore-Waiheke-Great Barrier. Likewise, if Sunair don't get airborne again they could develop services out of Ardmore and Whitianga and establish Great Barrier links to and from Whangarei and Tauranga

Will Sunair get airborne again? If it does it will be a gradual rebuilding of services.

Air Napier
They operate a Napier-Gisborne courier run. They could be a successor to Sunair on Central North Island flights having a fleet of Senecas and a Navajo. Their fares would need to such to stimulate traffic.

Air Gisborne
They operate air ambulance service. They also could be a successor to Sunair on Central North Island flights but they would need to invest in another aircraft.

Steady as she goes.

Are operating Nelson-Palmerston North and Nelson-New Plymouth four days a week. The current timetable is not conducive to business traffic. Air NZ offered an early morning/late afternoon flights between Nelson and Palmerston North. I wonder if Originair could replicate that? The thing to watch... if Air NZ pull out of Palmerston North-Wellington Originair should definitely step up the Nelson-Palmerston North service.

Golden Bay Air
I've heard GBA is looking to expand. I wonder if they could develop a Kaikoura-Wellington run after their Takaka model which seems to work well.

Stewart Island Flights
Again, steady as it goes. A Queenstown-Stewart Island service offers huge possibilities...

So my pick, a year of expanding possibilities as Sounds Air and Air Chathams look to upsize and the future .


  1. Good reading Steve.

    My prediction would be too about link triming here and there, perhaps not about poor performing, but to be able to stay agile against Jetstar regional.

    I wouldn't be surprised if NZ and Chathams have already talked and there is more to the Saab that meets the eye....

  2. Totally enjoy your predictions Steve.
    The movers and shakers are, clearly, Sounds Air and Air Chathams. The potential for one of these carriers to tie up with Qantas Group is a possibility.
    As for Air NZ, seems to be slipping into a conservative mindset. Perhaps a new CEO is needed?

  3. HKK’s schedule is timed to allow for as many possible connections to Air NZ’s domestic and international network, as well as that of VA & SQ from CHC.
    It’s busiest days are Monday’s and Friday’s, with a heavy concentration of commuting professionals supporting the coast.

    Additional frequencies are not currently appropriate as demand is perfectly suited to the current arrangement.

  4. Good Post Steve
    Sounds Air could use the 2nd Beech (if they get them) on linking up Christchurch to Kapiti Coast as both ports are already in their network and there was enough demand for 19 seats a day but too low for Air Nelson's Q300

    1. Absolutely Jarden.
      PPQ-CHC is a sitting duck for success, it’s mostly a business commuter market from PPQ. People are prepared to bay for the convenience. Their alternative is a drive through congested Wellington and out to the airport paying high parking prices.

      Air Nelson could have offered just an out in the morning, in again at night on weekdays only.. but they dropped it instead.
      The Beech 1900D by sounds Air could easily do 3 returns a day.

  5. Another brill post Bish!

    SCR TG-AA-TG is absolutely set to happen. Two Q's based ar TG. However will likely be one plane until new terminal getams built.

    Air NZ has 9 flights a day currently with more to happen so a big fight and with larger ATR72 set to be plane too.

    SCR wont get Q400 anytime soon. First of type plus no-one to maintain them in NZ.

    1. The JQ regional arm won’t be growing any time soon. QF is repainting it’s AU based Dash fleet and naming them after Australian cities.

    2. VH-SBW is apparently being painted into JQ colours now that the maintenance on the permanent 5 is completed. They have just enough room in the current fleet of 5 to start another route so an extra aircraft will give them a bit of wiggle room if they do commence another service.

    3. TRG will only happen once the new terminal is open. 2-3 times daily to AKL is likely. In the long term I wouldn't be surprised to see a WLG rotation in the mix.

      TRG has huge potential and it is quite underserved currently by NZ.

    4. Oh totally underserved by NZ;
      9 returns or 450 seats each way weekdays on AKL, 3 returns or 150 seats each way weekdays on CHC and 4 returns or 218 seats each way weekedays on WLG.

      The ATR is back on a daily WLG run and plenty of potential to grow that / and or replace the Q300 on the route.

    5. It was underserved in the past for the size of the city NZ's 5th largest. Lately the CHC-TRG route has a 4th daily flight operated by ATR no.5483 leaving CHC at 0900. Should make it earlier departure to suit the business travellers.

    6. NZ5483 would be an ad hoc extra flight due to the holidays, the core schedule has been and remains 3x Q300 on weekday's.

  6. Here is my guess...

    Air NZ: Much the same, yes I could possibly see HLZ-PMR being dropped. Taupo, Hokitika and Timaru seem to be going pretty well so not much else. Maybe one or two Q300's being taken out of service over the quiet period?. Nelson to be connected to Queenstown and Dunedin.

    Jetstar: I can only see three new routes being possibly started... AKL-TRG, WLG-HLZ or NSN-CHC unless they were to make some major moves which I can't see startng.

    Sounds Air: B1900's will be used for Blenheim to Chch/Wellington and maybe Nelson to Wellington, much the same elsewhere. Will offer a service to Hokitika/Greymouth.

    Air Chathams: Will take over Kaitaia services with Metro, start a Whakatane to Welly service. Will consider a Masterton service but won't kick off within next 12 months.

    Originair: Will re-adjust price model and be based more around leisure with services to Hamilton and Tauranga added (on alternate days like Kiwi Regional did).

    Airport wise...

    AKL will add a few Asian carriers (looking at Asiana plus a return for EVA), Virgin will start a service to Newcastle while Air NZ will start to Canberra.

    WLG will be much the same, steady growth.

    CHC will largely be the same as well, but Air NZ will start a widebody service to SYD and PER will be year round.

    ZQN will keep attracting more and more Aussie flights... nothing really new.

    NSN will keep growing at a fantastic rate with more Q300 services becoming ATR's.

    DUD will also grow with more services to the 3 main cities and Nelson.

    NPE will push for an international flight.

    1. Napier’s terminal needs a total redo before they even begin to dream again about international flights.
      The size of the terminal and it’s layout has long been a shambles.

      Given that flyers from here are big time moaners about price, once the 320 starts filling up... they won’t want to pay the sustainable fares that make it viable. Just like the regional ports that went international of old with SJ/NZ/VA
      The direct flights would only happen to suit people willing to travel on that particular day.

  7. Good predictions, though I hope you are wrong about HLZ-PMR being dropped.

    Although, so long as the likes of Fontera and the Crown Research institutes continue to have large numbers of staff based in both locations, along with the likes of Toyota, FMG & Massey being based in Palmy (along with the defence force) then the HLZ-PMR-WLG route should be safe in its current operating pattern.

    1. It’s very safe, all the above mentioned continue to support the service in great numbers.
      The service will recommence on Jan 21 once the business traffic gets going again.
      The leisure market loves it too. Lots of unaccompanied children, mothers with infants and elderly enjoy the direct link.

    2. Yes, generally very good loads between WLG-PMR-HLZ on all sectors. Not sure why this routes appeared on the under threat list. TUO on the other hand...

    3. As I said, I've used this flight quite often... Normally just over half the pax get off at PMR... The rest, and I am one of them, are continuing on to WLG... then quite a good number get on at PMR... but my thought - and remember I am just an armchair observer - is that the economics of an extra landing at PMR would put the costs up... The numbers only flying between HLZ and PMR are not a full Q300 - they are just over half a Q300 load

    4. Yea the number fluctuates flight to flight, some days half get off, other days almost everybody gets off leaving just a couple of people flying all the way through.
      It seems to be working well for everyone. Business traffic between HLZ-PMR & PMR-WLG. Plus the extra options for those HLZ-WLG travellers.
      PMR-WLG is very much a feeder flight to other services.

  8. My predictions are -

    Air NZ - Steady as it goes under Christopher Luxon's pencil and rubber policies. CHC/HKK/CHC will continue as usual as a tourist service and same for AKL/TUO/AKL. TIM will still be under the accountant's watch to see if loadings will continue to grow. HLZ/PMR/WLG will stay as the service would part of aircraft rotation to other destinations, since the Q300 overnight's in HLZ.

    The first of the A320neo's will delivered this year. Does anybody know what Trans Tasman and South Pacific routes the 4 A321neo's will be used on?

    Jetstar - They seem to be very quiet at the moment, so I guess it will be business as usual. If there is any new services, AKL/TRG/AKL would be the most likely, as Tauranga is NZ's 5th largest city.

    Air Chathams - The 2 new Saabs would allow the consolidation of the AKL/WAG/WLG services plus charter work. I still have a feeling, the Saabs could include WKT as part of the AKL/WAG/WLG/WAG/AKL services.

    It will be interesting if Air Chathams is part of the Masterton City Council registration of interest for air services to/from MRO. If they are, is see a AKL/MRO/AKL Metroliner service. This Metroliner service could be part of any AKL/KAT/AKL service.

    Soundsair - It will be business as usual. If they do go ahead and get the 1900s, I would think they would do WLG/NSN/WLG and WLG/BHE/CHC services. A possible PPQ/BHE/CHC and/or a PPQ/NSN service using 1900s could work for them.

    I wonder if Soundsair is part of the Masterton City Council registration of interest for air services to/from MRO? If so, a possible WLG/MRO/AKL services could be on the cards, especially since SQ is operating WLG/CBR/SIN services. There is frustration with people in the Wairarapa, that there is no regular air link to WLG, since they have to drive or train to Wellington.

    Stewart Island Flight - Business as usual.

    Sunair - It seems their flying days are over.

    With regards to other 3rd level air carriers, I think it will be business as usual.

  9. Air NZ has been in staedy as she goes stage for a while both Internationally and Domestically, they seem to be happy where they are at not cutting routes/destinations or adding new ones.
    Might be not willing to take a risk and open a new port or not many low hanging fruit left. Looks like Manila won't be a goer and Chicago has been talked about for years.

    Jetstar first bold move in a very long time to restart WLG-ZQN flights was somewhat out manoeuvred by NZ doubling frequencies. They have not started TRG as may feel a bigger response from Air NZ if they did so a playing keep safe strategy.

    We might see Air Chathams start AKL-MRO and Sounds Air getting Beechs for CHC-BHE but nothing more unfortunately. Its not the right climate for airlines to expand regionally. A lot of uncertainty and a dent in business confidence since the change of government.
    The only new route started last year was Origin's NSN-NPL service. So not a lot happening or no one willing to take a risk and lose a lot of money doing so.

    1. How long is a while?
      The past couple of years has seen Osaka, Henada, Ho Chi Minh, Houston and Buenos Aries added to the network. This year sees significant capacity increases to Bali, Adelaide and Honolulu. I believe also Vancouver and Singapore is getting a ramp up in capacity.
      They are currently actively investigating Chicago and dreaming of New York Newark and Rio de Jenero

    2. 14 on the service to NPL today

    3. More than double that on WAG-AKL today

    4. Air NZ will not do Chicago for a long while, as United is not keen on the idea. Manila could be a co-share with Philippines Airlines, due to the their non-stop service between Manila and Auckland. Rio de Jenero would be a goer, when the 12th B789 is delivered later this year. I think Air NZ international is steady as you go for most of the year. It will be interesting next year what the plans will be, when the A321neo's start being delivered and the 13th B789 is delivered.

    5. An answer to how long is a while?
      Since Air NZ dropped Whanganui 18 months ago it has been steady Not cutting or adding new destinations.Those destinationslike Houston, Osaka etc were all added in the growth phase of 2015-2016. The are adding additional frequencies to existing destinations which is not the same as opening up a new destination.

    6. It was steady for Air NZ last year 2017. Even they gained two more 787s in the fleet they didn't start a new route with them deciding to send them to Houston instead of opening up a new port. Looks like the next 787 is allocated to make Singapore twice a day. What remains of the last 787 to come is yet to be seen hopefully a new route for a change. Prefer Rio de Janeiro say 3 per week it would open up a new country to NZ.

    7. You can only add so many new routes. It’s not as simple as, plane, plus airport slot equals new route.
      There’s alliance agreements to consider. Securing feed traffic through alliance partners at the new destination. Close terminal / gate space with other Star carriers. Travel agents, sales teams and other sales channels need to be opened on the ground at the destination.

      Japan has seen major capacity increases with;
      Auckland - Tokyo Henada was added in 2017
      In 2016 seasonal Auckland- Osaka was added.
      Domestic feed on Star carrier ANA and onward connections to Korea on Star carrier Asiana.

    8. Other airlines manage to open new routes all the time so they over come these challenges. Some airlines add a new destination nearly every month.
      Regarding Japan the extra 3 weekly flights got swapped from Narita to Haneda. So that the Tokyo market remains at 10 per week.

    9. There’s absolutely no way New Zealand, with a home population the size of Melbourne could add a route per month.
      Is that the only matrix for success now?

    10. That was just an example not a rule to follow. Could still add a couple of new cities ever year don't all have to be long haul either. The longer it's getting left the more other airlines will come in and take more of the market. If you stay still you will be left behind eventually it's a fast changing industry the world of Aviation.

  10. I tend to disagree...
    Air Chathams haven't bought two new Saabs without thought of expansion. Likewise Sounds Air won't buy Beeches without route expansion. I'm surprised that air2there/Originair now that is has 3 Jetstreams registered to it hasn't started PPQ-CHC. Jetstar could also make a move. Air NZ can make more money on international and main trunk domestic. The year is ripe for regional expansion.

    1. Jetstar won't fly any route that Air New Zealand don't, therefore ruling out PPQ-CHC for them unless Air New Zealand start operating it again.

    2. The J31/32 does not have the performance to operate PPQ-to anywhere on a regular basis. Essentially limited to 0 passengers and fuel ex PPQ in a southerly.

    3. Air2there have been operating from PPQ with it recently havnt they?

    4. Yes but on the short NSN-PPQ-NSN route meaning they will be nowhere near MTOW. But the point is valid in terms of PPQ-CHC. J31/32 really not suited to PPQ with runway length of just 1026m. BAe data states takeoff distance for 31/32 at MTOW sea level no wind as 1380m (and 1240 for landing roll). By comparison Q300 is 1085m, B1900D 1162m and Metroliner 23 just 870m.
      So PPQ-CHC should be good for Sounds Air B1900s or perhaps Air Chats Metro doing something like a WAG-PPQ-CHC-WAG-CHC-WAG-CHC-PPQ-WAG day?

  11. Judging from comments in this recent article. Jetstar must be seriously considering TRG. Will be interesting to see if it will be AKL or WLG


    1. The article kept referring to ATRs, they’re an exception to the norm at TRG.
      Also the security event referred to was blenheim not Nelson.
      Experience with airport managers, they tend to be full of optimistic hot air. Don’t take every word as gospel.

    2. I doubt that article would be correct. They'd never be able to say something like that before Jetstar makes an announcement.

  12. I wouldnt have thought so.