There appears to be only a very slender chance another
company will step in immediately to maintain a daily air
service between Wanaka and Christchurch once Air New
Zealand's Eagle Air pulls out at the end of January.
Dunedin's Mainland Air operated on the route almost 10 years
ago but current managing director Mark Paterson was offering
little hope the company would return to Wanaka when
approached by the Otago Daily Times this week.
''I don't think there is anything likely to happen, to be
honest. I suspect people will just drive over the hill and
get the aircraft from Queenstown.''
Wanaka Airport is less than an hour's drive from Queenstown
Airport, where large airlines compete for passengers.
However, Mainland had not completely discounted the
possibility of running its 10-seat Piper Chieftain on the
Wanaka-Christchurch route, Mr Paterson said.
''We're still thinking about it; trying to work through it.
''There's nothing in place at present but it's always
possible, depending on demand, I guess.''
Mr Paterson said one of the challenges of operating a small
plane on a scheduled service was maintaining high passenger
''It doesn't take much to start losing money, so you just
can't afford to do that in aviation.
''Unless you can be assured of a profitable business, you
just can't afford to do it because you can run up costs so
Eagle Air operates a 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D but Mr Paterson
said operating a smaller aircraft on a scheduled service
created potential problems, particularly with handling large
amounts of luggage.
As well, although a service could operate with one pilot,
passengers generally preferred to see two people up front and
at the moment there was a worldwide shortage of pilots.
Mr Paterson did not consider there was anyone else besides
Mainland in a position to keep the service operating.
Wanaka Airport manager Ralph Fegan said Air New Zealand began
flying the Wanaka-Christchurch route about eight years ago,
about two years after Mainland ceased its operation.