Air service launching flights to Christchurch

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A Dunedin company is to start a new air service between Oamaru and Christchurch starting on June 4, just after Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

Philip Kean, chief executive officer of Mainland Air Services, which is based at Dunedin International Airport, said a nine-seater Piper Chieftain aircraft would be used on the new service.

There will be flights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week leaving Oamaru at 7.30am, returning by 9am. Afternoon flights from Oamaru would leave at 4.30pm and return at 6pm.

There would also be a flight on Sunday afternoons leaving at 4.30pm and returning at 6pm. Each flight would take about 40 minutes. The price will be in the vicinity of $200 one way

“Air New Zealand used to do it and we’ve looked at it for a couple of years,” Mr Kean said.

“We think it will work. Oamaru is a growing area and we’ve been looking at developing our company. We’ve bought a Piper Chieftain for the service.

“Air New Zealand had good loadings; they pulled out about four years ago. We’ve seen the figures out of there and we think we can make it pay.”

He said the flights would be trialled and it would be a case of “use it or lose it” for the North Otago public.

He said the idea was to have the flights connect with others to Wellington and Auckland.

The North Otago business community has been advised of the new service and Mr Kean planned to make a presentation to the North Otago branch of the Chamber of Commerce.

Simon Berry, spokesman for the North Otago branch of the Otago Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the news.

“It’s very exciting and for businesses it’s great; we’ll support it as much as possible.”

Mr Berry said local people were presently disadvantaged by having to travel to Dunedin for flights and it was difficult to make appointments.

“It takes a whole day to get to Auckland.”

He believed the service could be economically sustainable as long as the scheduling was right.

“If it gets the connections (flights), it’s a real plus.”

Mainland Air Services owns eight aircraft and runs charters and transfers all over New Zealand as well as a flight training school.The company employs six pilots. Former Oamaru man Sven Thelning will be the pilot on the Oamaru-Christchurch service.

By CHRIS TOBIN