Tauranga Airport could be in line for an extra 11 domestic flights a week, if regional development plans between the city and Palmerston North Airport take off.
The two airports are currently in talks over the proposed regional relationship and are looking to foster economic development through domestic flights.
An Air New Zealand flight at Tauranga Airport. Photo: File.
Palmerston North Airport chief executive, David Lanham, says Tauranga is very much on the airport's radar as an option for boosting traffic and supporting regional growth.
The recently appointed chief executive is part of a team that aims to convince Air New Zealand to reinstate Palmerston North to Nelson flights – something he is confident can be replicated with Tauranga Airport.
Eleven domestic flights currently travel between Palmerston North and Nelson each week, which includes two flights daily Monday through Friday to cater to business traffic, plus one on a Sunday.
David sees building stronger links to main centres and other regions as a safer bet than uneconomical international flights.
“We believe our focus should be on regional development – so domestic development first and foremost. We are about economic growth and we see the best way to do it is through promoting domestic services.
“Everyone wants international flights [and] we had them here up until 2008. But the bottom line is they're just not economically viable.”
Manager of Tauranga Airport, Ray Dumble, says discussions between the two airports and Air New Zealand have been ongoing but there is no timeframe for when the additional flights could be introduced.
“Initially they obviously saw the Nelson-Palmerston route as viable and our one was put on the back burner a bit. But it's obviously time to look at it again.”
Tauranga Airport is the fifth busiest controlled airport in New Zealand and capable of handling large aircraft such as Boeing 737-800 and Airbus 320.
Ray says the proposal's biggest hurdle is timing, with 15 flights per day (including return flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) already on the airport's books.
The advantages of scheduling additional flights between the two airports include inbound and outbound traffic being able to bypass Auckland to get to the two cities; something that will take pressure off the three hubs of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.