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Air Napier fields calls for school run flights

Investors behind the re-launch of the Napier to Gisborne airline route have been blown away with inquiries about the new service — particularly with an unexpected call from Gisborne for a possible “school run” by air.

Air Napier started scheduled flights between Gisborne and Napier last week. Chief operating officer Mike Brown said the aim of last Wednesday’s soft-launch was to establish what demand there was for the Napier-Gisborne route, as well as potential new link from Gisborne to other regions.

“The amount of email we’ve had and phone calls, we had to put extra staff on over the last few days, has been phenomenal. I mean we got asked for a ‘bus route’ because there are so many kids going to private schools in Hawke’s Bay and they are only spending one day a week with their parents, the rest of the time they are at school or sitting in a car. So, there are all these new things that have come out of it.”

Brown said the airline was also open to working with community groups.

“So far the response has been extremely good — phenomenal to be honest.

“It’s been very refreshing — from the Mayor to the unique set up with Eastland Group and the i-Site guys. Everybody is singing off the same song sheet and that makes it easier for people like us.

“Gisborne is open for business. ECT have been very open and the Chamber of Commerce have been extremely welcoming.

“We were always of the mindset of wanting some scheduled flights region to region and that’s what we are looking at.”

People at the government’s Provincial Growth Fund were also “pretty excited” about the possibilities.

“We’re open to all aspects and we’re open to investment too, just like any other business, and we’re willing to work with anyone who wants to work with us. I think there’s a big opportunity here, which is why we’ve shifted our lives and we’ve got a solid team behind us.”

Air Napier now had 11 staff members based in Hawke’s Bay with room to expand staff levels further, including Gisborne.

“Doors are really opening up here,” he said.

“Everything, apart from the road (SH2) leading into Gisborne, seems to be ready to move. That’s been the biggest positive out of here.”

The airline had five aircraft, four twin engines and one single engine, and was looking to recruit six new pilots.

Air Napier chief executive Shah Aslam said the airline was “very dedicated” to Gisborne.

“It’s not all about us, it’s about working together in partnership with ECT, the council and other local businesses. There’s no business too small or too big that we won’t work with.”

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce chief executive Terry Sheldrake said members had been keen to hear more about the airline at a presentation to members on Thursday.

“They understand that Air Napier will work with our community re a flexible timetable, and will be doing their due diligence around finding the best price that they can offer for this service, yesterday was day one so very early stages for this new service.”

Members particularly liked knowing they now had an option to get to Hawke’s Bay in just a 35-minute flight.