14 May 2020

Early-morning bungy jump prelude to flights resuming

6:04 pm on 14 May 2020

Queenstown has rolled out the welcome mat to domestic visitors with the return of the first passenger flights since 1 April.

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult takes a sunrise bungy jump on Thursday.  AJ Hackett Bungy started operating again on the first day of level 2 rules that allow domestic tourism to re-start.

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult takes the plunge into the Kawarau Gorge. Photo: Supplied

The district has been reeling from thousands of job losses, with more than 5500 people requesting welfare since late March.

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult takes a sunrise bungy jump on Thursday.  AJ Hackett Bungy started operating again on the first day of level 2 rules that allow domestic tourism to re-start.

Jim Boult gets ready. Photo: Supplied

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult welcomed the return of domestic visitors with a sunrise bungy jump off Kawarau Bridge with AJ Hackett Bungy.

Hours later, the first passenger flight touched down in what was once one of the country's busiest airports.

"Look, there's a lot of people out there going through a lot of pain at the present time. We need to remember those who have lost their jobs, those whose businesses are struggling, the migrant folk who may not be here in the future. A lot of pain," Boult said.

"However, there's no point standing around wringing your hands, saying woe is me. We've got to get on with it, and today is the day we get on with it."

The flight left foggy Christchurch this morning, landing in a bluebird day.

Christchurch resident Tracy Hay was first out of the terminal, ready to help her daughter and grandson move house.

"It's freeing. It's a bit weird to be allowed to do this. But to be in a different place than Christchurch is just amazing. Christchurch has been great, but oh, it's so nice to be here," Hay said.

Auckland resident Phil Bramwell booked a weekend away with his friends as soon as level 2 was announced.

He said other Aucklanders wouldn't be far behind.

"I think Aucklanders are waiting to get down here and they can't wait. I think there'll be plane loads of them very quickly following us," Bramwell said.

With a weekend of golf and hunting planned, he wasn't fazed by the changes to flying and social distancing.

Anthony Mortimer was happy to be able to support local tourism.

"Everything's distance so there's clearly one metre apart, at least in all of the queues that you're in. There's no food open, there's no coffee open, there's no people close by to you and the seats are very spread out in the planes. It was a weird feeling ... but it's great to be back," Mortimer said.

"I hope everything is going really well for everyone in Queenstown and it works out ok, because goodness knows, we need this economy back up and running now. It's been too long."

Queenstown Airport operations and safety general manager Michael Clay said it was exciting to see flights return.

"One thing it's great for the airport and for the staff who work here and all of our stakeholders. But it's even more important for the tourism operators in Queenstown, and it's actually going to breathe some life into their businesses and give them a bit of hope for their future."

The airport would usually have about 40 arrivals and departures a day at this time of the year - today they had four.

Clay said it was a good opportunity to ensure their social distancing was up to scratch - that currently meant no 'meeters and greeters' in the terminal.

But they would be let back into the airport in the future, which he expected would encourage airport cafes and restaurants to open up, he said.

Jets from Auckland will start touching down on Saturday.

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Queenstown Airport says the return of flights is great for people working there as well as local businesses. Photo: 123RF

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