Air NZ edges closer to Canberra flights

Air NZ edges closer to Canberra flights
By admin

Air New Zealand remains in "active dialogue" with Canberra airport over the possible launch of flights to either Auckland or Wellington.

Talks took place across the Tasman just before Christmas with the two parties edging closer, although an agreement and launch of services remains some way off.

In an indication of increasing accord, Air NZ Australia general manager Cam Wallace told Travel Today he was "more positive" about the possibility of flights following the latest round of negotiations.

The carrier will now re-examine its figures over the catchment area for Canberra after receiving the airport's own detailed analysis.

"We are continuing to debate the financials that would support the operation and we are re-looking at some of our numbers primarily around the demographic as in what the catchment area would be," Wallace said. "They [Canberra Airport] are relatively pragmatic because they know we are going to have source incremental aircraft or transfer one of our aircraft onto the city pair, so it is clearly an opportunity cost. But we are working together in a very productive way, to try and reach a position that meets both parties expectations."

The airline has committed to meet with airport officials for more talks before March when Air NZ will "come up with more scenarios".

"To be honest, I've become a bit more positive after our last meeting. I can see how we can find a way through this," Wallace said. "We are still in active dialogue."

He predicted that "at some stage" direct Canberra services will happen – within a tentative timeframe of 12 to 18 months – but he stressed dates "have not even been discussed".

Wallace added that a final decision would rest not with only with Air NZ but in conjunction with Virgin Australia.

"Anything we do on the Tasman now is an alliance decision," he said, adding that Virgin would have the "primary relationship" with the airport on the basis of its "strong team in Canberra looking at corporate traffic".

While government and corporate traffic would generate a higher percentage of business between Canberra and New Zealand than other Tasman routes, leisure would remain critical, Wallace continued.

"Business and government traffic on the Tasman is only about 18% [of the market]," he said. "From Canberra it would be higher than that and one of the highest business and corporate contribution markets. But there would still have to be a significant amount of inbound and leisure traffic or connecting traffic to make it work."

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