16 October 2012

Air Service for Oamaru???

A couple of articles (below) have appeared in the Oamaru Mail about the possibility of Mainland Air calling into Oamaru on their proposed air service between Dunedin and Christchurch. Certainly Oamaru folk are hoping for that. I always felt Oamaru was cheated with the Eagle Air/Air NZ Link service. It was getting good loadings until they played around with the timetable meaning that Oamaru folk couldn't do a same day return service to Christchurch or Wellington. (See http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2010/01/31-december-2009-air-new-zealand-drops.html)
My gut feeling is what Mainland Air is proposing is not what Oamaru needs. I would imagine that not too many Oamaru folk want to fly Oamaru to Christchurch - it is a good easy 3 hour drive. Most people would want to get a connecting flight to Wellington or other northern centres. So that means paying a fare from Oamaru to Christchurch and then adding a Jetstar or Air NZ fare on top. 
A better service, I think, would be trying an Oamaru-Wellington service, up in the morning and back in the evening. That model worked for Air West Coast with its flights from Greymouth to Wellington - they got good loadings. Direct flights are more attractive. Even now a lot of Greymouth people drive to Westport (1 hour) or Christchurch (3 hours) to get a direct flight to Wellington rather than driving 30 minutes to Hokitika to get a connecting flight with a lay over time before flying to Wellington. Likewise, Hokitika only ever gets grabaseat fares to Christchurch - the direct sector. There are never any cheap fares to Wellington.
The big problem for a small airline wanting to serve somewhere like Oamaru is finding a model of good frequency at a low to competitive cost. It's certainly not easy these days to pioneer such services, but one wonders if it ever was easy
Meanwhile nothing has appeared on the Mainland Air website about the new services.
- Steve

Flights from Oamaru
Oamaru Airport may be used for passenger flights again - and it could happen as soon as Labour weekend. Mainland Air is planning to launch services from its base at Dunedin to Queenstown and Christchurch within three weeks and if there is sufficient demand the Dunedin-Christchurch flight could call at Oamaru. Mainland Air operations manager Phil Kean said flights would be to and from Christchurch on Fridays and Sundays and, depending on demand, flights on other days of the week could be arranged. Passenger flights from Oamaru stopped at the end of 2009. Air New Zealand subsidiary Eagle Air said at the time it had been suffering from poor passenger loadings for more than 12 months before the regular flights were scrapped. The service had run for three years. Mr Kean said: "Oamaru Airport is a good airport and it's not being used. "People are saying that there's a demand for it in Oamaru. "I'd love to say it is going to be a success, but we'll go with public demand. We'll see what happens." The company's 10-seat Piper Chieftain would be used for the service. Room was allowed for nine passengers and one crew member. Seven people would be needed on each flight to continue the service, he said. A ticket to Christchurch would cost about $200 each way. The price would be the same whether people booked in advance or on the day of the flight. Mr Kean said that instead of a three-hour drive to Christchurch, people could be there in 35 minutes by air. Waitaki District Council property manager Dougall McIntyre said the airport and terminal were still maintained and could accommodate regular commercial flights. "For us, it's a normal landing and their request is that they have access to the lounge," he said. "Their proposal sounds pretty good and advantageous if people want to spend a week or a weekend away." Mr McIntyre said the council was required to carry out maintenance to meet safety standards. Mainland Air's proposal would not require any major input from the Waitaki District Council. "We wish them all the best," he said. A snapshot of people spoken to on the street by the Oamaru Mail yesterday indicated there is a demand for a flight service from Oamaru Airport. Everyone spoken to said they would be interested in using Mainland Air. (See page 7 for their views.) Mainland Air services is based at Dunedin Airport. Established in 1991, it specialises in scenic flights across the southern tourist basin, private and business charter services anywhere in New Zealand, geological and ecological aerial survey work and air ambulance transfers. The company also operates a flight training school, Mainland Aviation College. Anyone interested in using the proposed flight service from Oamaru to Dunedin and Christchurch can contact Mainland Air on (03) 486 2200.

Boarding call for Oamaruvians
Mainland Air's proposal to use the Oamaru Airport for passenger flights has the support of local leaders, but for it to be successful Oamaruvians must get on board - literally. Mainland Air is planning to launch services from its base at Dunedin to Queenstown and Christchurch within three weeks and, if there is sufficient demand, the Dunedin-Christchurch flight could call at Oamaru. Mainland Air operations manager Phil Kean said flights would be to and from Christchurch on Fridays and Sundays and, depending on demand, flights on other days of the week could be arranged. Mr Kean said he had very positive feedback from local authorities last week. He will meet with Waitaki District Council property manager Dougall McIntyre today to discuss the proposal. Waitaki Tourism Board chairman Annabel Berry said she was 100 per cent supportive of Mainland Air. "Ever since the airport closed in 2009, we've been fighting to get it back so we're thrilled that they will take a shot at Oamaru," Mrs Berry said. It would open up more opportunities for tourism, business, events and conferences. When before, tourists might bypass Oamaru, flying straight from Christchurch to Dunedin, this opened up an opportunity for them to visit Oamaru. However, Mrs Berry said to ensure the service was sustained, it needed the support of Oamaruvians. Until they are able to reach the tourism market, the service would rely on local support, she said. "If anyone is thinking of going to Christchurch, we encourage them to book with Mainland Air." Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said it was "very encouraging" news. "It's wonderful that Mainland Air have confidence in Oamaru's economy and I always applaud people who are doing something a bit different," Mrs Dean said. "I would use the flights whenever I can." Otago Chamber of Commerce Waitaki advisory committee chairman Gary Kircher said a quick travel option would help attract more people to Oamaru, especially for conferences. "It's yet another good reason for people to be based in Oamaru and selling goods and services to the world," he said. "It's all about those connections, I look forward to seeing more details of the service." From past experience, Mr Kircher said Mainland Air must offer a good frequency, accessibility and price to be successful. He said he was confident there was demand for the service in Oamaru. North Otago Aero Club chief flying instructor Sven Thelning said the Waitaki District Council had done a "fantastic" job of maintaining the site and keeping it tidy. While the Aero Club did not have the means to offer that service, Mainland Air did and he was supportive of their offer to give it a shot. He backed Mrs Berry in saying it would require initial support from the people of Oamaru to ensure its continuation. Pen-y-Bryn lodge co-owner James Glucksman said guests often commented on the need for an airport in Oamaru. "We just had a guest this morning who said it would make it a lot easier for them to come to Oamaru for a weekend," Mr Glucksman said. After reading of Mainland Air's proposal in Friday's Oamaru Mail, Mr Glucksman contacted a number of travel agents nationally and internationally, notifying them of the idea. "They thought it would be a great thing for the town," he said.
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  1. Maybe Eagle should introduce a timetable like Masterton for Oamaru. It seems to work for them. One departing in the morning, arriving back in the evening. But fares to Masterton are horrendous!!! Poor Oamaru, I felt for them when Eagle pulled out. Look at Wanaka, one flight a day and that gets in around midday. The day trippers day to CHC have to drive to ZQN.

  2. Oamaru has a base of business people with interests around the country who have pushed for this service. Loadings were good, but perhaps the Jetstream was too big. A Chieftain (Seneca initially) might be better.