By Emily Norman
Work is underway to bring a commercial airline back to Wairarapa.
Discussions have been ongoing between Masterton District Council and leading New Zealand airlines, with a registration of interest to go out in the next few weeks.
Hood Aerodrome Manager David Hayes said there were “no guarantees” that a suitable airline would be secured, but was hoping to secure a service similar to what Air New Zealand offered previously – “in other words, the Masterton to Auckland route”.
“In my opinion, the issue is not starting up an airline – that’s do-able,” he said.
“The issue is, can we get one that’s going to endure and be sustainable?
“The world is littered with examples of small airlines starting up on small routes and failing, so we’re not unique in that regard.
“We’ve got to be really careful to get it right if it’s going to survive.”
Mr Hayes said council staff had analysed the likely travel demand in Wairarapa, “and based on that work, we think the demand could be well in excess of what Air New Zealand offered previously”.
‘Strong demand for Auckland link’
Air New Zealand ran a service in Masterton through its subsidiary, Eagle Air, from 2009 until it was cancelled in 2013 due to a reduction of the Beechcraft fleet.
In 2014, Masterton District Council accepted a proposal from Vincent Aviation to operate weekday flights over its rival, Air Chathams, but the company went into liquidation later that year and the service never eventuated.
“We know there is a strong demand for a commuter service to Auckland,” Mr Hayes said.
“And we know this is driven by the demand of largely business travel.
“We’ve had people say if there was a reliable Auckland to Masterton link, they would start thinking very seriously about moving to Wairarapa.”
“However, as we know, despite there being a strong demand, it is difficult to get a viable commercial service, so there are no guarantees in this process.”
Mr Hayes said it was too early to know what size aircraft would be likely.
“We’d be looking at the whole range, from the smaller ones which are ten seats to the larger ones with more than 30 seats.”
The next step along with the registration of interest process was to get businesses and community leaders involved in discussions.
There are funds available if further development is required at Hood Aerodrome.