Sounds Air could fill gap left by Air New Zealand after national carriers drops Blenheim-Christchurch flights
  • The Marlborough Express
  • Posted Jun 1, 2016

Sounds Air could fill gap left by Air New Zealand after national carriers drops Blenheim-Christchurch flights

The Blenheim-Christchurch route had been serviced by Beechcraft 1900D aircraft, however these were replaced by 50-seater Bombardier Q300s in early May.

Marlborough Airport chief executive Dean Heiford said he was disappointed the carrier had made the announcement so soon after switching to the larger planes.

"I'm disappointed they didn't give us a bit more of a chance to build capacity, but I understand it's an economic decision," he said.

The spokeswoman said the 50-seat services had been available to book for more than a year and the airline had dropped lead-in fare prices by 40 per cent to reflect the increased capacity.

But there had only been an increase of around two to three people per day, she said.

"Forward bookings on this route are not strong enough to sustain a viable service."

Staff at PC Media, in Blenheim, used the service at least once a week for business.

Technical director Lee Harper said the airline had not waited long enough to see if demand would pick up.

"It was three weeks in the middle of winter with barely any promotion," he said.

The times for business people travelling from Blenheim were good, but hardly anyone used the 6.10am departure time from Christchurch, he said.

It would be too difficult to get from Blenheim to Christchurch via Wellington by 9am, so Harper said staff would have to drive and stay overnight in the city.

Marlborough Tour Company managing director Chris Godsiff said the flight schedule had contributed to the lack of demand which caused the service to close.

"The flights that Air New Zealand put on weren't particularly user-friendly, they were pretty cranky times," he said.

International visitors coming to Blenheim might be put off by having to get two flights, he said.

"It's got to be a deterrent, because the last thing you want to do when you get to New Zealand is get another two flights, one is bad enough."

Sowman said the timing of the announcement was frustrating because the top of the South was expecting more Chinese visitors.

Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said the news was disappointing but around 80 per cent of international visitors arrived in New Zealand through Auckland Airport.

Blenheim had good connectivity with Auckland, so she did not think cutting the Blenheim-Christchurch link would impact the number of overseas tourists coming to Marlborough.

 - The Marlborough Express


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