23 Mar 2018

Air NZ ‘has lost the identity as NZ’s national carrier’

From Checkpoint, 5:14 pm on 23 March 2018

Regional mayors are calling for an interline agreement with Air New Zealand to force the airline to promote regions it doesn't directly fly to. 

That comes after Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones called out Air New Zealand this week for axing regional routes, most recently its Auckland to Kāpiti service.

The airline, which is 51 percent owned by the government, abruptly withdrew its service into Kāpiti earlier this month. Three years ago it stopped flying to Kaitaia, Whakatāne, Westport and Taupō.

The mayors have told Checkpoint with John Campbell that Air New Zealand could help, even if they did not land.

It could promote their New Zealand towns, as well as the ones the airlines visit. 

Secondly, it could load their destinations onto the Air New Zealand website, working alongside the smaller carriers. 

And finally, it could check luggage all the way through, working with the smaller airlines to make sure bags get all the way from Wellington to Whakatane, for example, rather than being offloaded in Auckland. 

Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne said it was time for Air New Zealand to step up as a national airline that acknowledged the provinces.

"Currently, we are silenced. If you look at an Air New Zealand book, Whakatāne doesn't exist. They don't market Whakatāne anymore."

Buller District Mayor Garry Howard also backed an interline agreement, saying it was vital to support regional growth.

And Kāpiti Coast district council mayor, K Gurunathan, said Air New Zealand had a "moral responsibility" to ensure another airline took over the service there.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said he could not force Air New Zealand to fly into regions which were not commercially viable.

"By the same token, we are the major shareholder and I think it's only right that Air New Zealand should listen to and take into account the government's views."
Mr Twyford said at his next meeting with the airline's chief executive, Christopher Luxon, he would ask what the plan was for regional routes. 

He said such services were an economic lifeline for a region. 

Checkpoint with John Campbell sought comment from Air New Zealand about whether it would welcome an interline agreement but has received no response.