Air Chathams return to the Norfolk Island route yesterday marked the first time New Zealanders have been able to fly direct to the Australian territory in 15 months.
Auckland Airport’s general manager aeronautical commercial, Scott Tasker, says Air Chathams had delivered important domestic airlinks since the start of the pandemic, so it was great to see them restart a regular service through to Norfolk Island.
"Regionally focussed airlines like Air Chathams have played a critical role in keeping New Zealand communities connected over the past year, particularly those domestic airfreight connections that allowed fresh, high-quality New Zealand produce to get out to overseas markets," says Scott.
"The Norfolk Island service not only creates another opportunity for travellers to discover a new destination, but also keeps the local community connected for freight and any essential travel."
Air Chathams will make the round trip from Auckland every Thursday carrying up to 30 passengers, increasing the frequency to twice a week in August. It joins other new services launched since trans-Tasman quarantine-free travel opened in mid-April including Air NZ’s new twice weekly service to Hobart, Qantas flying to the Gold Coast four to seven times a week, and a Qantas service to Cairns up to three times a week for the winter months.
"Quarantine-free travel has seen thousands of travellers catch a flight every day between Auckland and Australia or the Cook Islands since it began nearly two months ago," says Scott.
"While our aviation and border processes now include a health protection layer to ensure our countries can continue effectively managing COVID-19, it’s been fantastic to see friends and whÄ¬Ånau reconnecting in our international terminal again. These are important steps on our path to safely reopening to other countries, particularly in the Pacific."
Scott says trans-Tasman cargo connections were also benefiting from more frequent services.
"If you look back to this time last year, sometimes we saw only one passenger flight a day on the trans-Tasman. Now there’s an average of 12 a day flying between Auckland and Australian destinations. Although passenger aircraft flying cargo-only filled the gap in airfreight demand, having quarantine-free travel has added about 17% more cargo capacity across the Tasman," says Scott.
"As we continue to manage our country’s response to the pandemic, maintaining and growing these air cargo connections will also be important for our economic health."