Push for more flights to Queenstown

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Queenstown Airport is urging airlines to put on extra planes from Auckland and Christchurch to soak up an expected summer surge of tourists from Asia.

Last week, Auckland Airport said an extra 140,000 seats would be added on Asian routes between November and March – a 15 per cent increase in capacity – while Christchurch will be boosted by a new summer service from China Airlines.

Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson says some of those Asian tourists would want to fly to the resort and it was discussing capacity with Air New Zealand and Jetstar.

“We haven’t seen a material jump in the capacity out of Auckland into Queenstown.

“We have noticed that, out of Christchurch, there’s probably more jets than we have seen in the past.”

The airport is preparing for a busy summer season.

Jetstar’s year-round service between the Gold Coast and Queenstown starts in mid-December.

From December 12, Queenstown will have an average of five international flights a day, rising to eight over the Christmas holiday period.

The weekend of November 22 is flagged as being particularly busy, with the Air New Zealand Marathon in Queenstown, the Rolling Stones playing in Auckland and Sir Elton John performing in Wellington.

Paterson says a material percentage of marathon entrants were from Australia.

Queenstown Airport’s passenger numbers were 107,793 in September, up 6.5 per cent on September last year. Domestic numbers were up 7.3 per cent to 74,693 and international rose 4.8 per cent to 32,830.

New Zealand international visitor arrivals for September crept up 1 per cent, as the number of Chinese visitors dropped by 13 per cent.

Paterson says Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch passengers to Queenstown all increased.

Internationally, passenger numbers to Queenstown decreased from Melbourne and gained from Brisbane.

September’s international increase cemented a 65 per cent increase in passengers flying to the resort between September 2012 and September 2013.

Domestic passenger numbers are still recovering from losing Jetstar’s Wellington service, which was scrapped in August last year.

In seven of the past 12 months, domestic volumes to Queenstown dropped when compared with the previous year.

However, international arrivals have increased 24.3 per cent in the 12 months to September, to 333,660, compared with the previous year, while domestic volumes dropped 0.4 per cent to 943,464 passengers.

david.williams@odt.co.nz