Dunedin International Airport chairman Stuart McLauchlan
is one of Dunedin's most travelled businessmen and he has a tip
for reducing the costs of travel from the city - book early.
Last-minute flights were always expensive, he said from
Auckland International Airport on the way to a meeting in
Air New Zealand's vastly improved profit for the year ended
June 30 was greeted with dismay from some regions, believing
the profit came on the back of price-gouging from the
Prime Minister John Key waded into the debate saying he had
directly raised the issue of high regional air fares with the
national carrier's chief executive Christopher Luxton.
''I've made it clear I think Air NZ needs to continue the
work it's doing while making sure it reduces prices to the
regions if it can. Because in the end, we always know they're
likely to have a more monopoly-type position in those
Mr Key wanted the airline to ensure it continued to deliver
fair pricing to the regions.
The New Zealand Airports Association welcomed Air NZ's
commercial success but chief executive Kevin Ward said the
regions were right to question whether provincial routes were
generating excessive profits.
''Making a profit is a good thing for the airline's ongoing
investment, innovation, reliability and promotion of New
Zealand. But very high air fares have a choking effect on
regional economies, business connections, tourism and social
links,'' he said.
Dunedin recently lost a direct Auckland-Dunedin flight,
meaning travellers wanting to leave late from Auckland needed
to take two flights to return home after a day of business.
Mr McLauchlan said the route was losing money and was not
commercially viable. Air NZ travelled to Dunedin to share all
information and discuss how the route could be made to work
''That route is safe now and there is a commitment to get the
extra flight back when possible.''
Smaller airlines had tried flights between Dunedin and
Queenstown and Oamaru and Christchurch but they had not
worked, he said. There was not the volume of customers and
that was reflected in the pricing.
''Dunedin people are always grumbling about the costs but I
travel regularly for meetings and as soon as I know I have a
meeting, I book a seat as early as I can. The average fare is
much lower than it was. Ten years ago, it cost $1000 to get
to Auckland. Now, it can be done for $400 to $500, sometimes
less on special deals.''
The airport company's engagement with Air NZ was the best it
had ever been, Mr McLauchlan said.
The airline operated on a no-surprise basis and had worked
hard to stabilise the flight schedules to and from the city.
Air NZ was following best business practice, as should all
businesses, he said.