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Air New Zealand is to a launch a new service between Westport and Christchurch.
The service will operate on Monday and Friday mornings and evenings from 6 July and will be operated by Air New Zealand subsidiary Eagle Air utilising a Beech 1900D aircraft.
Eagle Air General Manager Grant Kerr said he was pleased to launch the new four times a week service, which would make it quicker and easier for customers travelling between Westport and Christchurch.
“We have been evaluating the potential for a direct service between Westport and Christchurch for some time, in response to direct approaches from a number of customers keen to make it a reality,” he said.
Mr Kerr said Air New Zealand has been in discussions with energy producer, Solid Energy for nearly four years about potentially operating a service between Christchurch and Westport. Solid Energy’s Stockton Opencast Mine, just north of Westport employs about 700 people. A number of company staff from Christchurch regularly travel to the mine, along with other contractors and consultants.
“Solid Energy has committed to supporting the new service and this has certainly given us the confidence to launch,” Mr Kerr said.
Currently, customers wanting to fly to Westport from Christchurch either have to fly into Westport via Wellington, or fly to Hokitika and drive to Westport.
Mr Kerr said the new service would be trialled for six months, with community support ultimately determining its long-term viability.
“We are confident at this stage that we have the customer support to sustain this service, but are looking to the local community to throw its support behind the initiative and make it a commercial success.”
Mr Kerr said the service was good news for the region.
“The people of Westport will be well serviced and have choice in the way they travel with our new service and the Greymouth-Westport-Christchurch passenger service which has recently been launched by Coastair.”
Eagle Air operates more than 1100 services a week throughout New Zealand and despite the challenging economic environment, Mr Kerr said the airline was always looking for opportunities to extend its network.
Over the past 15 months in response to customer and community demand Eagle Air has also successfully launched direct services between Whakatane-Wellington and Auckland-Masterton.
Online lead in fares (one way per person) between Christchurch and Westport begin from $84 and are now available at www.airnz.co.nz.