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
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
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
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
''It's another challenge.''