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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is user pays the new hope for regional NZ?

Masterton residents were up in arms when Air New Zealand dropped their daily MRO-AKL flight in February, now hope is thriving again with possibilities for "user pays" flights.

The first possible white knight to the community was Sounds Air with their plan to operate a Cessna Caravan on MRO-WLG as a morning commuter flight but this idea has since been shelved.

Next saw Vincent Aviation offer the community their MRO-AKL service back with a Saab SF340 service, however the community would have to buy or lease the Saab which Vincent would then operate.  However it looks like this plan will also be shelved after the turbulence of the Vincent Aviation Australia collapse.

The third white knight is Air Chathams a long established operator who usually fly to and from the Chatham Islands.  They have the experience here as well as having operated Chathams Pacific in Tonga, which ceased operation last year when the Tongan government set up a rival airline with Chinese donated aircraft.

Air Chathams are revisiting their original proposal and if the community accepts the terms, stumping up $100,000 to form a 50/50 LLC company, then Air Chathams could be flying from MRO in as little as two weeks from the formation.

However it appears there will need to be structural work completed at the airport, extending the runway by 70 meters at a cost of $150,000, to allow the Air Chathams Metroliner aircraft to take off with an 18 passenger load.

Whatever the local council and community decide it looks like the future of any service to Masterton relies on significant investment from the users.  Should this work out well then this offers an opportunity for other regional centres who have lost services to work with an iterated party using the "user pays" model to restart their service.

Read more about the Air Chathams proposal via the Dominion Post HERE

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