Air NZ sets sights on night flights


Night flights are set to become a reality at Queenstown Airport, with Air New Zealand confirming yesterday it will begin after-dark operations on Friday, July 1.

Subject to regulatory approval, the airline’s last daily flight from Auckland will land at 9.25pm, while the earliest north-bound flight will depart from Queenstown at 7am.

The new services will go on sale next week and Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd says night flights would produce an immediate 30-40 per cent boost in the number of international tourist arriving in the resort on domestic flights.

“I think the extra capacity will be very quickly adopted by international visitors, not to mention domestic travellers as well.”

Air NZ is only the “first cab off the rank”, he says, and he expected airlines Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin to follow suit in time.

Queenstown Airport Corporation acting chief executive Mike Clay says the announcement is a “huge milestone” in its history.

Night flights will maximise the airport’s current consented operating hours (6am to 10pm) during the winter months and reduce peak-time pressure on its facilities.

“For domestic leisure travellers it will make a weekend break possible year-round and for business travellers it will mean more flexibility, potentially enabling them to do a return day trip instead of having to stay overnight.”

An $18 million runway and lighting upgrade – a condition of NZ and Australian aviation authorities’ approval for night flights – began last November and was on schedule to be completed by mid-April, he says.

Queenstown Lakes mayor Vanessa van Uden says the announcement is great news for the district, and will not only benefit visitors to the resort but also give residents greater flexibility in their work and holiday travel.

Air New Zealand chief sales and commercial officer Cam Wallace says night flights will be a “game changer” for international travellers’ same-day connections to Queenstown and reduce connection times between destinations throughout Australia, Asia and North America.

He predicts night flights will boost its capacity between Auckland and Queenstown by 15 per cent, or 100,000 seats, in the 2016-17 financial year.

The airline’s chief flight operations and safety officer, Captain David Morgan, says it has been working with the airport, its pilots and unions on an “operator safety case” that will be submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority soon.

NZ and Australian aviation authorities approved the airport’s foundation safety case for night flights in mid-2014.

Navigation technology enabling aircraft to land and take off at night is already in place.

Otago Daily Times