Kiwi Regional Air, which begins direct South Island flights from Tauranga next month, has the first flight more than half full already.
The first flight into Tauranga from Nelson will be on February 15, says the airline CEO Ewan Wilson.
KRA's Saab 340 at Nelson. Photo: Steve Lowe.
The return flight from Tauranga to Nelson on the 34 seat Saab 340 later that day is 65 per cent booked a month out from the first flight.
“Bookings have been spectacular out of Tauranga, in fact bookings out of Tauranga have outstripped bookings out of Hamilton over the last couple of weeks,” says Ewan.
The airline is starting with twice weekly flights. Dunedin-Nelson-Tauranga and return on Tuesdays.
On Saturdays, Kiwi will operate a Nelson-Tauranga-Nelson return same plane service around the middle of the day. Tickets for Tauranga-Nelson direct are $99 one-way, Tauranga-Dunedin tickets start at $169.
“Tuesday's are particularly popular because it's the quickest way out of Tauranga to Dunedin because it's the same plane service.”
If bookings continue to match expectations, the airline will look at adding extra capacity.
“We wouldn't be changing aircraft, we would be adding frequency. It's a wait and see,” says Ewan.
The ground handling at Tauranga will be managed by Sun Air. The airline will use the city council owned Tauranga Airport terminal and hire a counter.
“We will put our sign above it while operating,” says Ewan.
The airline chose Tauranga ahead of other possibilities, like Hawke's Bay and Taranaki, because of the facilities and the great potential.
“There is a high proportion of our passengers ‘visiting family and friends' , and with the Bay of Plenty's population around the quarter million mark, there are a lot of family connections between this area and the South Island.
“We are also aware that other larger airlines have ignored the air travel needs of Bay of Plenty residents, either missing them entirely, or forcing them to travel through Auckland and Wellington to get anywhere,” says Ewan.
“The direct flights to Nelson make it much easier for both leisure and corporate travellers wanting to avoid lengthy and tiring stops in the expensive Wellington and Auckland airports.
“Our region to region Dunedin-Nelson-Hamilton flights have been successful right from the start, and we expect the Tauranga-Nelson-Dunedin connection to also be as successful.”