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Flying options if demand is there

Opinion Piece

A new air travel option for the district is great news, even as a harbinger of greater connectivity and convenience rather than competition and lower air fares.

Under new ownership, Air Napier is expanding from private charters, scenic flights and ground handling operations to become a regional domestic carrier, and is starting out with a service between Napier and Gisborne — which it is soft-launching next week, with flights on Wednesday and Friday.

Air Napier chief executive Shah Aslam says they plan to soon offer direct flights on regular schedules connecting Napier to Hamilton, Tauranga and Palmerston North as well. More connections for Gisborne will also be considered — and positive developments on that front would be the real win for this district, with the above-mentioned cities all being destinations of interest here too. A Rotorua service should also see demand, and be a boon for tourism in this district.

Mr Aslam says flight scheduling is yet to be confirmed but they are looking at multiple daily flights between Napier and Gisborne on their seven-seater Navajo or one of their three-seater Senecas (all twin-engine planes).

Air Napier’s website is advertising an 8am Gisborne to Napier flight (arrives 8.35am), and a Napier to Gisborne flight at 3.45pm the same day (arrives 4.20pm). A one-way ticket costs $299, or $349 for a seat in the cockpit (“Sit up front with the pilot for an incredible bird’s-eye view!”)

Established in 1987, Air Napier was purchased in November last year by SO Capital — which itself was founded in 2012, with the aim of investing in small-medium and start-up New Zealand businesses.

SO Capital has invested in hospitality (Mama restaurants in Wellington and Auckland), online job matching service mPloy, a company called Business Obsession and now Air Napier. Its website says: “We don’t invest in businesses, but in industries. We explore industries which will give us a competitive leap forward into the future.” And: “We aim to identify and partner with strong management teams and to work alongside them to identify and implement key operational and strategic changes to drive long-term growth and increased profitability.”