Virgin axes Australia flights

Dunedin Airport.
Dunedin Airport.
In a blow to Dunedin's travel and tourism industry, direct flights to and from Sydney and Melbourne this summer have been dropped.

''It's bit of a blow really for the city. Gutting, isn't it?'' Dunedin City Council business development adviser Sophie Barker said yesterday.

The move comes as Virgin, in a transtasman alliance agreement with Air New Zealand, is increasing flights to Queenstown and Christchurch by 36,000 seats and 43,000 seats respectively, from November to March.

Council economic development unit manager Des Adams said cuts to services meant a loss of 12,700 seats coming to the city.

''There will be a fallout, but it's yet to gauged on the tourism sector,'' he said.

For the past couple of years, Virgin, as part of the alliance agreement, has operated two services a week to both Melbourne and Sydney direct from Dunedin during December and January. Passengers travelled on either an Air New Zealand or Virgin aircraft.

However, Virgin has confirmed the alliance will not operate the service this year ''based on performance''.

Figures from the city council's economic development unit showed the flights to Sydney increased 6% from last summer to this summer, and to Melbourne up 14%.

Virgin flew direct to Brisbane three times a week but that would increase to four times a week from July to October before going back to three.

Dunedin Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said it would be very disappointing if more flights going to Queenstown were to the detriment of Dunedin.

The loss of the flights to Dunedin was a ''lost opportunity'' to bring Australians direct to the city, he said. It made the city's job of keeping and attracting businesses harder as access to overseas destinations became more difficult.

''The result is increasing costs and increasing time it takes to get [to where they want to go].''

Dunedin International Airport chief executive John McCall said he was disappointed at the decision because demand for the summer services had grown significantly.

''We were surprised they have discontinued ... those services, but clearly they are looking to put capacity into other routes.''

He believed it was more economic for airlines to operate in centres where there was competition for the routes compared with places like Dunedin where there was none.

Rotorua also had no competition in transtasman flights and, as a result, only had one or two flights to Sydney, whereas Queenstown, Wellington and Auckland all had competition in the form of Qantas and or Emirates.

''With a certain amount of capacity, you get the best yield.''

Increased flights into Queenstown was ''sure to impact'' on Dunedin but it was difficult to quantify due to the differences between airports.

Dunedin's passenger mix was 50-50 New Zealand residents and visitor traffic, while Queenstown was heavily dominated by the inbound market, particularly Australian visitors.

In the winter, some ski tourists flew into Dunedin, especially school groups, to avoid the uncertainty around weather delays flying into Queenstown.

''I do not believe the residential market in Dunedin is crossing to Queenstown.''

House of Travel retail manager Tony Boomer said the drop in direct flights was really disappointing.

''The Dunedin to Brisbane flight is really popular - a direct flight is the first preference every time.''

Mr Adamson said the flight reductions would affect how the council's new tourism enterprise marketed Dunedin internationally.

''It's another challenge.''



Great thinking, Buxton

I mean Duncan. Sadly, the money we were saving for our bus ticket to the 21st century was squandered on a place for rugby because the ground they had "was not good enough".

If you take into account our population is 120,000 approx. I would estimate that half that number are not working in full time employment. 20,000 students and a lot of elderly, children and unemployed with little chance of that changing.

I'm afraid that we are destined to remain what we have been for the last 50 years, The Retirement Village of the South.

The fact remains is that Queenstown gets all the limelight and most here prefer it that way, otherwise we (those of us left here) would have already left too.

Dunedin needs to move into the 21st century

I used to be a frequent user of the freedom air Sydney to Dunedin flight when it was a year round service. The last time I returned to Dunedin from Sydney however it was a real ordeal. As well as no more direct flight, I found out there was also no longer a train from Christcurch so I was stuck in a very uncomfortable bus for 5 plus hours after having to stop over for a night in Christchurch.

Unfortunately, it will be a long time therefore before I return to one of the world's most beautiful cities. It is just too hard to get to from Australia. Sadly, it has completely gone to sleep since the days when I was a student there and fell in love with the city. Industries closed, not opened its eyes to the huge tourism opportunity, not wiling to invest in the future etc...

I like the ideas of some of the other contributors ... Cable cars, big name toursit attractions ... New ferry cruises ... All worthy of action rather than talk .... But the biggest obstacle of all that Dunedin faces is the lack of public transport infrastructure. It is nonsensical to have it so shut off from the rest of the world .... Believe it or there is a world beyond Signal Hill.

I am a frequent visitor to Laung Prabang and Siem Reap ... Both sleepy towns until 10 years ago... It is not too late Dunedin ... Wake Up and be counted ... You are one of the most beautiful small cities in the world ... How about encouraging tourists to visit your shores!


But we have students

When I can leave Dunedin I will, stuck here for the time being but the place is a joke. We are propped up by the students and that is the end of it. We have old run-down hotels that think a duvet and a bit of paint can hide the cracks, we have zero public transport worth using (let's face it, the car is cheaper to use for a trip to town?
And why don't we have a daily service from Invercargill to Christchurch on the train? Oh but we tried, and it was not used - well try again, as flights are crap and cost way over the odds and the road journey for a 200km odd trip takes 6 hours. We have the track so use it and make the station a working one again. The flight situation is just a sign of Dunedin's lack of standing as a place in New Zealand, and as for driving to Queenstown - get real!

End days

Max: Have you not noticed the Chamber of Commerce is busy stringing funerary bunting around the town? Maybe they know something you don't.

Forget Aussie, what about Auckland?

What about the pathetic amount of direct flights to and from Auckland,  totally driving away all business travelers to Dunedin? Last direct flight to Dunedin is 3:30pm. Any flights after this are as long as a flight to Australia. Why not have a later direct flight at least to cater for business people returning from Auckland to Dunedin? To catch the 3:30pm you need to leave the CBD by 2pm. If you get the redeye up you get into the CBD around 11am via point going really. Good way to drive people out of Dunedin.





90 mins

Let's be real about this and not get too excited. All this will do is add and extra 90 mins on an international flight as we will have to go via Christchurch.  Often when I've been checking out flights online it's much cheaper to go via Christchurch anyway so it's not the big disaster everyone says it is. In fact, going to Australia via Christchurch means you can get there by early morning rather than late evening.

Dunedin Backwater

Max_power you want some stats? Dunedin ratepayers are the second most indebted behind Auckland. The consolidated Dunedin Debt is $625 million or in other words $15,088 per ratepayer. Have you walked up Princes Street lately seen the empty stores in George Street and surrounds. Have you seen the numbers of commercial premises for lease? How about South Dunedin - no industry, Hillside shut, dozens of empty shops. I am not anti-Dunedin, I am fuming over the mess it is now in due to successive councils who have destroyed its economy and consigned the future to one of debt for decades. How can the city not rot when there is no money? The majority of it has been squandered on the "build it and they will come stadium".
Auckland is not a place I want to live but there wages are higher, they have industry, huge tourism, and the ability to fight their way out of their economic mess. Plenty of Dunedin people have fled to Auckland for a better way of life and I don't see too many Jafas rushing to live here, do you? Houses here are just as unaffordable for locals because wages in Dunedin are so low, everything is relative. Why has Dunedins population risen only 6% since 1976, Max?
Not exactly a boom town is it? Now with interest rates coming off historical lows and rising all the time the debt position will become so much worse. According to you Max, if you feel strongly about the fiscal vandalism we have seen from council and complain about the state of the city's fortunes we should leave? Don't worry Max, the way things are going hundreds of us negative moaners will grant you your wish. 


Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Maxpower, but Dunedin is  a backwater and is going backwards - or have you not noticed?

Compare us to Auckland, doesn't look so bad here? I hate to point out the blindingly obvious to you, max, but there's a huge difference. Auckland is a happening place where everyone (except me) wants to go and Dunedin IS a backwater that's slowly but surely going backwards.

The stadium was the last nail in the coffin. You should know this as you helped hammer that nail in. 

New strategy

3 international flights to Brisbane a week is all we got now, but if we are going to be really honest here I don't think these services will be around much longer. The reason I say this is there are virtually no 'economies of scale' in relation to the New Zealand Customs service and Aviation Security services for international services out of Dunedin. 

Should Dunedin Airport lose its 'International Airport' status, we need to make sure our domestic services are ramped up to the likes of Christchurch so we have better connection opportunities to international services.  


Dagg: I do (sorry, did) use this service as it gave a good reason to get away over the Christmas period. So!

Overit: Why can't or shouldn't the council have a meeting/discussion with them? It seems that there is so much red tape to get into Dunedin from the council. However, if something is so big that will affect us as a region if they leave, the council is not interested in it. That is the impression they are giving. Even if there is nothing they can do, they tried.


Twin city?

At this rate we should be soon be twinned with Detroit.


Sydney direct flights

Air NZ has a four international airport strategy and as they creep up their ownership in Virgin it was only a matter of time before Dunedin got shafted.  I now know what it feels like to live in Hamilton and Palmerston North which long ago had their flights cut. 

I do seriously question the management of Dunedin Airport over this as they clearly should have invested more effort into keeping these flights coming in and out of Dunedin.  Perhaps a discounted landing fee just for these flights only?  Some revenue than none is always a better option for an airport with high fixed operational costs.  Isn't it also better to have people at the airport parking, eating and shopping before the direct flights for up to 2 hours rather than them arriving just before a domestic ATR flight to Christchurch or Wellington to take a connecting international flight.   

The additional cost to us as travellers to go on a domestic flight must now also be factored into the cost to the local economy. I have had many friends visit Dunedin on the direct flights from Australia including family and they have always remarked at how easy it was to get to and how simple it made visiting. 

Enterprise Dunedin...get these flights back urgently.





Not enough attractions

We had opportunities for a 100 plus year old steamship running up and down the harbour, which could have reaped benefits like the Earnslaw in time, but we, the heritage capital, scrapped it.  Options of cable cars, to make us the San Francisco down under.  No.  there's also a host of other options we could be harnessing including a heritage transport and tech theme park.  But no.  No money to do any of that now, the council decided to throw all their eggs in ther personalised basket - the stadium... "build it and they'll come."  Oh, yes, words of infamy now.   The big birds aren't coming in to roost, looks like they are by passing us.  Well done.  

Christchurch had, over the years added to their interests, such as the trams, which paid for their capital of re-instement in just a few years, as well as Antarctic centre, Ferrymead, Mt Cavendish gondolas, Air Force World etc.  Despite the unfortunate attack and setbacks of mother nature, they are still ahead of Dunedin because of these additions over the last few years, rather than just replace a rebuilt stadium with another... well  some in Dunedin did insist on calling it 'Rugby city' , all for the oval ball game.  Not overly intelligent.


The council can't be blamed for commercial decisions made by private airline companies.

The council has spent its way into a position where all it can do is provide essential core services to the Dunedin community. Even that may be difficult as luxury spending programme debts continue to mount. The council has to increase service costs and rates and look at the possible sale of city assets to cover these losses. 

There is no room for any more luxury nice to have spending the council is broke.

It's time some people stopped seeing the council as a fix it all bucket of easy cash that they can dip into at will. The current council is still overspending and can do better. They say they are moving in the right direction to reduce debt, time will tell.

It wll be interesting to see what the council's report into the stadium model will produce. We can't go on with council funding these costs on its own.



I now fly Emirates

I moved from Sydney to Dunedin in 2010 and always fly back at Christmas to be with family. I have already booked my Emirates flight from Christchurch and the Inter City bus which arrives there about 2 hours before for next December. I may fly Air New Zealand from Christchurch to Dunedin on the way back. I have used Emirates for my last 3 return trips to Sydney. The only cheaper Air New Zealand flights leave Christchurch early in the morning and require an overnight stay. I told Air New Zealand several months ago that they had no interest in Dunedin and therefore I no longer had any loyalty to them.


I question anyone who calls Dunedin a backwater. Where are these empty shops and commercial spaces you speak of? Do you have stats to back this up? There is an acceptable standard for commerical vacancies in a city and from what I understand there is a lack of quality comercial space in Dunedin. For example we see development in Wall Street, Harvest Court and the Chief Post office to name a few.

If you are so anti-Dunedin, then why are you still here? Maybe you could move to Auckland where houses are unaffordable, you can't drive anywhere because of congestion, unemployment rates are 6% compared to 4% in Otago, and their council has more debt than ours. Doesn't look so bad here after all.

Why is it the fault of the council?

Opinion999: Why blame them? It is you that caused the problem. If you had used the service it would still be running.  Man (or woman) up! And take responsibility. 

If you want the flights back BUY an airline and run the flights yourself. [Abridged]

Facts rather than fiction

Sorry I think you need to find facts rather than fiction, and your outlook will improve as the above information is simply untrue. In the figures, Dunedin is the middle of the road in terms of debts and not out of kilter. What needs to change, and I'm not picking on you, is the small-minded negative attitude of some whinging whining people and the incredible tall poppy syndrome, along with the resistance to change among a small section of the more aged section of the population.  Virgin has been reducing routes to many places - Hong Kong, America, Gold Coast, Townsvillle and some other seasonal routes.  Have you been to many other cities? They have some empty premises also, it is not simply a local issue. I agree there are a couple of councillors there that are simply a disaster but someone who actually voted for these negative naysayers should be to account for those one or two.  There are many success stories around this city and the entire province but most will not advertise it quite simply because of the incredibly poor local media contingent across all facets.   


What the heck does Dunedin expect when there's nothing better than 3.5 star accomodation - yet better was proposed and opposed. There's no real ferry rides around the harbour (apart from the Monarch), an attitude towards non-drilling (despite the naysayers still being consumers of hydrocarbons) and various industries have had job losses or moved. All of these have had flow effects on the reduction in airline customers. All of Dunedins so-called tourism is nothing without the means to deliver it.

I'm afraid your wrong

Swignz: It is all about the money.

DCC is not responsible - for anything

Opinion999: What has the council got to do with it?

Everytime something negative happens we expect the council to sort it out. They can't.

Virgin and the like are businesses. If they don't see a sevice being profitable enough they axe it. And the City Council and DCC need to stop grandstanding over things such as economic development and '$10,000, 10,000 jobs in 10 years'  BS. The real drivers are the private sector and if they can't or won't then millions of ratepayer dollars won't change it long term.

All that the City Council and DCC can do is express their surprise etc. in the vain hope that will change things.


The country's second most indebted ratepayer city, Dunedin, is becoming more and more irrelevant. When airlines start pulling out they do so because the routes are uneconomic. We have huge debt, empty shops, and commercial spaces, a stadium bleeding millions and an council incapable or unwilling to do anything about it. Its just one blow after another. Where is the economic growth Mr Cull? Where are the new business start ups? How do you intend to pay off the city's $625 million debt, the $15,088 liability per ratepayer which is second only to Auckland. One of the world's best small cities? What a joke.

Entrepreneur needed

Hire a modern 737 plane and run different international destinations each day - there and back, maybe twice a day.

Sydney Monday, Brisbane Tuesday, Melbourne Wednesday, Brisbane Thursday etc, and throw in a few Dunedin to Queenstown as well.

Air NZ is biased towards Christchurch as the hub - ridiculous you have to fly via Christchurch to get to Queenstown which is a long road journey from Dunedin. Provide this service and overseas elderly tourists in Queenstown might spend a day in Dunedin since they cannot do the adrenaline rides.

Politicians - any comments?

First Dunedin loses one direct flight per day to/from Auckland and now this.

David Clark and Clare Curran - this is an election year so where do you stand on this? What would Labour do if elected? We all await your response.

Dave Cull - any comments? There's no point aspiring to be "one of New Zealand's great small cities" if you can't get a direct flight here.

Michael Woodhouse - I'm guessing your National government is still in denial about the regions being in decline. Flying Aussie skiers to Queenstown does nothing for the Dunedin economy.

As for Dunedin International Airport, can we still call it that if you can only fly to one destination? Dunedin deserves better, surely it's not all about the money.

Virgin are Air NZ

Air NZ have been buying up Virgin. They claimed that there would be no impact on travellers and were allowed to do so. This is just the beginning of the end for Dunedin's air travel under Air NZ.

Get rid of the council

This council really needs to be voted out before it totally destroys Dunedin. Why aren't they trying to keep the flights? Oh, that's right. The couldn't care less!

Friday the 13th

Dunedin flights to Australia axed

This news doesn't come as a surprise to me. I flew to Melbourne a few months back and there were only 57 passengers on the flight. The hostie said she didn't know how long Virgin would continue flying to Dunedin because loads were inconsistent.

This is a case of use it or lose it. It's unfortunate but a commercial reality.

Its easier for me to fly to Christchurch and transfer to an international service... More services, better times, more choices and cheaper seats.


Freedom air phase 2?

Here's  an oportunity for some savvy player to enter the game.

Maybe a blow but not surprising

After all, Queenstown, Fiordland and the West Coast are the drawcards for those visiting the South Island. Makes economic sense to land them in Queenstown.

We in Dunedin need to wake up and understand that we are not the city of choice for most travellers. Sure, we have some penguins and some oversized seagulls but that's about it.

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