Airline backers line up to board the dream

Dunedin Airport
Dunedin Airport
Farmer and cafe owner Fred Doherty dared to dream - but yesterday Otago Air began inching towards reality.

Staff members from a consultancy firm have proposed the formation of a ''shadow cabinet'' to draft a preliminary business plan for a Dunedin-owned airline.

The Dunedin branch staff of infrastructure consultancy Opus Innovation yesterday laid down a challenge for others.

''We challenge Dunedin businesspeople to be equally prompt in developing a draft business plan for community discussion,'' senior structural engineer Tom Moore said.

Dunedin-based Mainland Air operations manager Philip Kean said his company had pilots capable of flying a Boeing 737 service between Dunedin and Auckland and was enthusiastic about leading an independent Otago airline.

But he believed between $5 million and $10 million would be needed to set up an operation capable of leasing, insuring and crewing a 737.

That would require support from Dunedin and possibly Southland businesses and organisations, and a guarantee they would use the service.

''You would have to have that guarantee to make it work.''

An Otago Daily Times teletopics question asking readers if they would invest $1000 to help Dunedin launch its own airline drew

an overwhelmingly positive response, with more than 50 people saying they would.

Earlier this week, Mr Doherty, of Outram, called for the city to ditch major airlines, ''do the job ourselves'' and begin a local air service providing international flights.

Mr Doherty was responding to recent news Virgin had grounded Dunedin's only flights to Sydney and Melbourne.

That left a Dunedin to Brisbane flight as the only international flight from Dunedin.

His ''dream'', laid out in an opinion piece for the ODT, was to set up ''Otago Air'' by floating a company to lease a plane and pilots, giving Dunedin direct services to Australian cities.

Funding the venture 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.

Former Kiwi Air boss Ewan Wilson put the cost at closer to $2 million.

Mr Moore said a critical aspect of the initiative was that ''a few creative and respected people are quickly solicited to develop a business plan to gain immediate traction''.

He said $2 million could be raised easily, provided a tentative business plan could be agreed upon, then published in the Otago Daily Times in advance of fundraising.

Discussion would be needed on where to lease aircraft, and how to build a loyal passenger base. Self-insurance with the co-operation of an auditor, and underwriting from the Dunedin City Council, may be appropriate.

Mr Kean said he was keen ''to get around the table'' with interested parties and ''see if it will work''.

A cheaper and easier option would be to set up a service between Dunedin and Christchurch - something Mainland Air proposed in 2012.

That proposal did not get off the ground but Mainland Air this year launched a service between Oamaru and Christchurch.

It would be willing to re-examine operating a Dunedin to Christchurch service and if it bought an 18-seater plane, fares could be as low as $180.

Otago Polytechnic communications director Mike Waddell said the level of service to Dunedin International Airport ''hindered'' its operations and the polytechnic would be happy to support a new airline by using it.

''We would support any movement with current airlines, or any new airline, which [introduced a] schedule that works with a typical business day,'' Mr Waddell said.

Other people who responded to the idea included consultant planner Ciaran Keogh, who suggested organisations and companies get together to bulk-book seats, to help guarantee services.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said it was good to have a ''bold and big'' vision.

Air New Zealand had shown the overseas routes were hard to sustain in the long term, but Mr Doherty's idea was ''well worth the discussion''.

Air New Zealand responded flights between Dunedin and Christchurch were not double the cost of flights between Wellington and Christchurch, as had been suggested.

A spokeswoman said: '' In fact, looking at the 12 months to May, the average fare offered between Dunedin and Christchurch was on par with the average airfare offered between Christchurch and Wellington.''

Overall, Dunedin was one of the airline's poorer performing airports financially.

Air New Zealand constantly assessed demand and frequently made schedule changes across its domestic network to match customer demand.

Mr Doherty said yesterday he would keep an eye on reactions from key players.

''It really has to have buy-in from some of the heavyweights.''

It's time to move on

Its time to move onto a more sensible topic surely. I cant believe how many fools are prepared to throw their hard earned dosh into such a ridiculous idea. You would have more chance at making a profit by investing in a Ponzi scheme. [Abridged]

Wrong assumption

Its Me, I think it would be most unwise of you to assume you know the identity of posters on this site.  You happen to be wrong.

Business 101

I think it is you, Its Me, that doesn't understand business.  Yes, people normally have to spend or invest in a business to get it going and start to both recoup that spend and then return a profit, but if you think for a second that $2.5m is enough to get an airline going then I suggest you invest a little time on the internet for a start to see what the real costs are. 
As for your continued support for the view that the DCC should be getting into these sorts of activities, can I remind you of the statements made by Malcolm Farry of the CST at the time of the rugby stadium decision published in the ODT which set out a promise of a debt free stadium and a yearly profit?  Clearly you see that the Dunedin ratepayers, still seeing the never-ending financial disaster of that project, could be fooled again into believing that the city should be "investing" in an airline as they "invested" in the rugby stadium. 
No, if there was money to be made in anything like this concept then the very rich people sitting in the Otago hinterland and elsewhere would have already done it.  Why do you think they haven't and why do you think that they remain rich?

Indeed it happens elsewhere...

Its me; no one is about get over the debt burgeoning stadium, you can't sneeze at the millions its costing us per years in repayments or ongoing losses.

However, on the topic here, I agree that a regional owned airline is a brilliant idea. Finally some sensible thinking and catering to those who come here day by day. A gleaming blue and gold Boeing 737 is an attractive proposition that would bring people in, and some money. I'm currently on vacation in SE Asia, and notably have seen a number of countries that have small airlines that simply only serve the smaller, lesser known areas to the main city of that country. We could say have a daily flight to Auckland with a stop in Wellington en route. Right now, Air NZ are selling off their 737s, so could get one of those. And perhaps if expansion looked good, a transtasman flight with a second aircraft, perhaps in summer months.

I think too, during cruise ship season, a turboprop high wing airliner would be very useful for sightseeing flights over the region. A Fokker Friendship would be good, despite they are getting on they are reliable dependable machine (NZ Post still use one for the fastpost) and the drawcard is the large oval windows and high wings so views are not obstructed. Passengers could be whisked from wharf by bus to the airport for a food and champagne flight over some of Otago's best, with 3 plans of routes to go if one was under rain or cloud, it would fill easy, plus could be marketed to anyone else who wanted to come. It would be lucrative if marketed as classic flying. In the 1960s, a small airline called SPANZ (South Pacific Airlines New Zealand) with enlarged windows, aimed at tourism.


Airline or airport?

Just a little food for thought in terms of the international side of things, international aircraft operating out of Dunedin cannot depart full due to the runway being too short and in turn not all the seats on the plane can be sold! So therefore not as viable as other routes. Also note Invercargill has a longer runway than Dunedin.

Spend money

"Anyone who knows business will know you have to spend money to make money." Yeah-nah, Its Me. Anyone who knows bankruptcy knows that spending money unwisely is the way to lose money, your shirt and your ability to borrow money i.e. your credit rating goes down the longdrop faster than a breakfast bowl of branflakes washed down with castor oil.

I'm in!

I'm ready to add my $1,000. Tell me when and how. 

Otago Air

This latest pipe-dream will be as insignificant as pretending that Dunedin airport is an 'international'hub. It won't happen, if it was any way viable then the poor hard done by business sector in Dunedin and Otago should step up and pour their lolly in quick, but I won't hold my breath.

Pipe dream II

Yes G W Scam, I am part of the no go away crowd....why? How quickly some of us have forgotten. As soon as the name Ewan Wilson was published in this article the first thing that popped to mind was a) an airfare refund still owed to me from the collapse of his Kiwi Air that incidentally left hundreds stranded and out of pocket and B) you might want to ask him what the compitition would have in mind should the airline materialise as the compitition can drop fares lower for longer to take care of their little "problem".
However, I'm not one for stopping your pipe dream, so if your keen as mustard to pump $1k of your hard earned cash into this "little" venture then I say fill your boots.

You can't compare an airline to FBS

Bev - You clearly don't understand business. Anyone who knows business will know you have to spend money to make money. Going back to your knitting or crying into your hankie over the stadium has nothing to do with a council-owned business like the many we as ratepayers own. FBS is a event centre and stadium. An airline would be a commercial entity that is aimed at making money and providing a fantastic service for the city residents. I cannot believe that a few years on from FBS opening you are still debating this in every column that relates to any DCC spending.  Get over it. I think the answer is not bumper stickers to support the council-owned airline (as that was proven not to work by the anti-stadium brigade). We need it so many many Dunedin residents have quicker access to Aussie and I will look at the DCC in a much more positive light. Can you not afford the $20pa each resident would pay to raise $2.5 million to fund an airline that you will get your money back from - let's start a big campaign to make it happen.

Only a distraction

Getting real is not a well-known trait I'm afraid.  History tells us this in spades.  Believe me, dozens of people will run round for months on this, watched in total bemusement by those at Air NZ.  Believe me, within days there will be a clamour to extend the runway so that fully laden jumbos can land bringing in regular rigs for world-class acts which will suddenly be viable at the rugby stadium.  And as for the calls to get the DCC to bankroll the thing - it seems that having the second highest debt per ratepayer level in the country has not yet been taken on-board.  No, this is a distraction and not a lot more.

Fly golden, fly Otago

I didn't see the poll, but I'd happily join the "1000 Club". The airline's branding should be metallic gold, to reflect the history, spirit and resources of Dunedin.

This is the first good idea that has been floated in a long time. Thank you, gentleman from Outram.  The untidy truth is that despite it's appeal and accomplishments, Dunedin is an end-of-the-line travel backwater; a third or fourth thought stop, a place so unimportant in the scheme of things, the train doesn't even bother to stop by.  

Build solid transportation links before building more white elephants in the form of hotels, stadiums or other attractions.  Air New Zealand has far too much of a monopoly anyway on this nation's travel.  Their myopic reign needs to be challenged.  

Air New Zealand didn't grow on a magic beanstalk, and building an airline doesn't have to be something that only other people do -  it takes the "Let's Do It
Ourselves" southern attitude, financing and good planning and skilled management.  This is all
quite within the realm of possibility.  Developing tourism - both inbound and outbound - should be a top priority for Dunedin's best future.  Jobs would be created.  Investors could look forward to Air NZ bidding to buy out a successful regional airline.  

Transportation, tourism, education and agriculture should be Otago's main focus for a clean development programme - leaving behind once and for all the sniffing around of the dirty, dangerous and dying fossil fuel industries.



Seriously? Do you think that $1m is going to get this airline off the ground? I am all for 'think big...dream bigger' schemes, but come on, there has to be reality chucked in there as well. The logistics alone will be huge. It is not just a simple case of leasing an aircraft and off ya go. If you want to go down this track, then I agree with others, contact your local airline, Mainland Air, and see what they have to offer before 'hairing off' on a slippery slope that came from one person's 'dream'! 

Ya dreamin' mate

So how is this supposed airline going to guarantee the fares will be lower than Air New Zealand or Jetstar? And leasing an aircraft for 1 flight a day?

I sense there no thought has gone into this whatsoever. I say go away do your research and realise that this concept will never work.  

Get real

Get real everybody, it's obvious it is neither practical or economically viable.

No chance

I look forward to the flying pigs departing Dunedin Airport.

Not appropriate for DCC

'.... underwriting from the Dunedin City Council, may be appropriate.' No. It is not.

If private interests cannot make it happen, certainly the DCC cannot either. Don't they understand there is huge debt for the DCC and it is not the repository for everyone's wishing well?

Work with Mainland Air

Maybe working together with Mainland Air might be the better option. They are already established and have all the basics sorted. Together we could possibly have direct flights to Queenstown, and have business friendly flights to Auckland and in Dec/Jan flights to Melbourne/Sydney.

There are more options available than just going it alone.. Let's give it a go...


The thing hungry Air New Zealand forgets when it says it is looking at demand. It kills off demand because of its exorbitant prices.

A comparison in fare price should be Wellington Auckland to Wellington Dunedin. Much cheaper Wellington to Auckland, similar travel time.

May the local airline fly. 

Go Dunedin Air!

I have read numerous times over the last few years that planes that arrive at and leave Dunedin airport have a higher occupancy rate than any other airport.

If you balance that with Jetstar deciding to have daily flights to and from Dunedin-Auckland as well, it is extremely hard to believe that "Dunedin is one of the Airlines poorer performing airports."

The problem is, like with everything else since the current Gov't took power, the emphasis of everything is on Auckland and Christchurch, at the expense of the rest of NZ.

I say go all out with a Dunedin based Airline! But don't do it in a small way that makes almost no difference, plan it so it can do at least two return flights a day to Auckland, two to Christchurch, and weekend flights to Queenstown + Aussie. I find it incredibly stupid the next major city to Queenstown doesn't have direct flights to and from it!

I suggest ODT look at a campaign, much like the Neuro Service Campaign, lets get investors, donations - via fund raising, lets go full on! Two planes would be way better than one!

Also a warning, the anti-hotel, anti-stadium, anti-Octagon, anti-everyting crowd will soon be crowing 'No, go away' - so get ready to put your earplugs on, and turn your 'laugh them off' sensors on.

Pipe dream

Extract Sir Richard Branson...." If you want to become a millionaire, then be a billionaire and start an airline".

I give it 12 months if it even gets off the ground.

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