Queenstown to get a slice of $340m regional aircraft deal

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Queenstown is likely to benefit from a NZ$340 million investment by Air New Zealand to bolster its aircraft fleet.

The national carrier today (Wednesday) announced it has ordered seven new-generation ATR72-600 aircraft with purchase options for a further five between 2012 and 2016.

The order with French-Italian company ATR, subject to contract signing, potentially doubles the size of Air NZ’s ATR fleet and will put a further 200 million seats into the domestic regional market each year, CEO Rob Fyfe says.

“For our customers that will mean a big increase in the number of business-timed seats and seriously cheap grabaseat fares we have on regional routes every day.”

Each aircraft will come with advanced cockpit technology including Required Navigation Performance (RNP) equipment – which Queenstown flights heavily rely on due to the mountainous terrain surrounding the airport.

“The benefit of these aircraft being RNP-configured is clearly valuable for Queenstown. Being able to extend that to the ATR fleet is something we think is very important.”

Fyfe isn’t sure how many more flights will pass through Queenstown Airport as a result of the move – but “you will see more ATR flights going through there”, he promises.

“We rate Queenstown as one of the top two or three most exciting growth destinations in NZ and we see that continuing for the foreseeable future.

“Queenstown has undoubtedly been one of the fastest-growing destinations in NZ and Air NZ has invested enormously in infrastructure at Queenstown Airport and in capacity going into Queenstown,” Fyfe adds.

“We are very strongly motivated to maintain our competitive position in Queenstown and we intend to lead the market by continuing to deploy capacity and continuing to support the growth for that market.”

The first of the 68-seat ATR72-600 aircraft will be delivered to Air New Zealand in October 2012 followed by a second in December that year, two in 2013 and another each year for three years. The five purchase options are available for delivery between 2014 and 2016.