Flights to take off to Christchurch

Mainland Air has revisited plans for passenger flights from the Oamaru Airport, with a new service due to launch on June 4.

Public demand for an Oamaru to Christchurch service would have to be high to ensure the route's longevity, Mainland Air chief executive officer Philip Kean said.

Mainland Air will permanently base a Piper Chieftain aircraft in Oamaru and former North Otago Aero Club instructor Sven Thelning will pilot the service.

''It'll start as if we're prepared to stay there forever,'' Mr Kean said.

From June 4, there would be morning and afternoon return flights, between Oamaru and Christchurch, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

There will also be an afternoon flight on Sundays, leaving Oamaru at 4.30pm and returning at 5.30pm.

A one-way ticket between Oamaru and Christchurch will cost $200.

The Oamaru Airport has not been used for commercial flights since Air New Zealand's Eagle Air pulled its service in 2009.

Mr Kean said Air New Zealand figures showed an average of 12 passengers per flight from Oamaru, and Mainland Air would need nine people on board each flight to make the service viable.

In 2012, Mainland Air put an application before the Waitaki District Council to have the council subsidise Oamaru to Christchurch flights, but it was unable to garner support to make the service viable.

Mr Kean said it never gave up on the idea of making an Oamaru to Christchurch route a reality, recognising the potential of the Waitaki district.

''Oamaru is growing - particularly from a dairy and farming perspective,'' he said.

''It's a new challenge for the company; we're spreading our wings through the South Island.''

Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill said Mainland Air's new service was an example of how the development of the district was presenting new opportunities.

''It's early days and the service will appeal to selected members of the travelling public, but expansion of access to the district should prove beneficial,'' he said.

''You expand the opportunities for people and there will be people who take up those opportunities.''

Mr Gaskill said Tourism Waitaki expected the flights to appeal to domestic and international travellers.

''It's a fantastic thing - we wish them all the best,'' he said.

''We'll do everything we can to assist and promote and work with them.''

rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz