A Dunedin man has called for the city to ditch major
airlines, ''do the job ourselves'' and begin a local air
service providing international flights.
And the idea for city residents and organisations to get
together and develop ''Otago Air'' has been declared
''possible'' by a former airline boss.
• Read opinion piece here
Outram farmer and cafe owner Fred Doherty has responded to
recent news Virgin has grounded Dunedin's only flights to
Sydney and Melbourne.
The move by Virgin, which has a transtasman alliance with Air
New Zealand, left Dunedin to Brisbane as the only
international flight from Dunedin.
Mr Doherty has made clear he is a ''dreamer'' but, in an
opinion piece for the Otago Daily Times, he has called
for organisations from the Dunedin City Council to the Otago
Chamber of Commerce to get behind his idea.
Setting up Otago Air would involve floating a company to
lease a plane and pilots, giving the city direct services to
Australian cities, promoting the city and attracting tourism.
Funding would require 1000 people investing $1000 each for
start-up capital of $1 million, an investment that could be
returned in the form of air fares.
''If you are going to dream, dream big,'' he said.
''Nothing will happen if someone doesn't start the ball
rolling,'' he said, adding he would put up the first $1000.
Former Kiwi Air chief executive Ewan Wilson, now a Hamilton
city councillor, said the idea was not out of the question.
Kiwi Air collapsed after intense competition and Cr Wilson
was later convicted of fraud.
He said yesterday the model he used could work.
That meant starting up a ''virtual airline'', as Kiwi Air
The company would lease planes and pilots from a nearby
high-frequency airline with the necessary infrastructure and
''You then negotiate with them to operate your service, with
That model meant less capital was required, and less time,
because issues such as regulatory approval were the leasing
There was a cost, as that airline would take a profit.
But Cr Wilson said it could be done with a start-up cost of
about $2 million.
As well, there was nothing to stop other cities left out of
the international flight loop, such as Palmerston North and
Hamilton, ''embracing'' the idea.
Regular flights might ''irritate'' existing carriers but
might also prompt them to reinstate services.
''In a broader sense, that might not be so bad.''
Asked to respond to Mr Doherty's idea, Dunedin Mayor Dave
Cull said Air New Zealand had said it had limited planes and
pilots, and there was insufficient demand in Dunedin to push
the city as a priority.
''That's the reality of it.''
However, the idea was ''not completely silly''.
Mr Cull said the Dunedin to Auckland route was the major
problem for the city, because the schedule made it difficult
to do business there in one day.
The high cost of the Dunedin to Christchurch route was ''Air
New Zealand being quite cynical''. In a situation where there
was no competition, ''they screw us'', Mr Cull said.
Mr Doherty said last night he was ''absolutely'' serious in a
promise to put up the first $1000, and chair an inaugural
meeting on the idea.
Air New Zealand did not respond to questions on the issues