Key tourism sites linked by flights

A trial service between Christchurch, Mt Cook and Queenstown will be launched by Air New Zealand tomorrow, designed to meet high-season demand and provide tourists with a convenient way to visit several of the South Island's key tourism regions.

Air New Zealand Australasia group general manager Bruce Parton said the service would be the 28th destination on the airline's domestic network.

''The service will make it quick and easy for groups to take a day trip to the region or overnight at Mt Cook. '

'The connection through to Queenstown will also enable travellers on a tight schedule to visit multiple South Island destinations,'' he said.

The trial service would operate for six weeks, from Sunday until January 27.

The 40-minute service between Christchurch and Mt Cook will operate three times a week - Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays - timed to connect with the arrival at Christchurch of the direct service from Tokyo and other morning services into Christchurch from domestic airports, including Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington.

The first flight was scheduled to depart from Christchurch at 11.45am and arrive at Mt Cook at 12.25pm before continuing on to Queenstown at 1.30pm. On the return journey, the flight would depart from Queenstown at 3.10pm, arrive in Mt Cook at 3.50pm and landing back in Christchurch at 4.30pm.

Air New Zealand's subsidiary airline, Mt Cook Airline, would operate the service, using a 68-seat ATR aircraft.

Mr Parton said while the airline would ''no doubt assess the success'' of the service as a seasonal route, there were no plans to extend a year-round Mt Cook service.

The airline last operated services between Christchurch and Mt Cook a decade ago, with the last service in February 2002.