Air NZ urged to bring back flight times

Air New Zealand has not ruled out making changes to its direct service from Auckland to Invercargill to make it more business friendly.

Some southern business commuters have urged the carrier to reinstate its pre-Covid-19 scheduling, which saw flights leave early morning and return late evening.

In 2019, Air New Zealand launched the direct service between the two cities, initially operating four return services a week. Earlier this year, that increased to five days.

The flight landed in Invercargill just after noon and left about 1pm which did not work for business travel, regular commuter Matt Taylor said.

Mr Taylor lives and works in Auckland for SBS Bank, whose head office is in Invercargill, and travels south every two or three weeks.

While it was great there was a direct service, he avoided it, preferring to fly through Wellington or Christchurch — a trip that took six hours instead of three.

Leaving home about 4am, he landed in Invercargill about 10am. On the return trip, he left Invercargill in the late afternoon and got home after 11pm.

Mr Taylor believed if there were more convenient times to travel, there would be more demand.

Scott O’Donnell
Scott O’Donnell
Prominent Invercargill businessman Scott O’Donnell said the pre-Covid scheduling was definitely better for business travel.

"You got to do a day’s business in Auckland. It was a big day but it worked ... It is a bit more difficult now," he said.

People were "very very happy" that Invercargill secured the route and Mr O’Donnell would like to see it become a seven-day-a-week service eventually.

The airline had dropped a late afternoon flight to Christchurch which could cause some issues if there was a disruption, Mr O’Donnell said.

Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said the airport had the capacity to service planes at any time of the day.

The direct service to Auckland had been a "game changer" for the region and it was great to see so much demand.

"It’s one flight to the country’s largest market then one flight to the world ... it has really helped our connectivity."

It was a good position to be in when people were wanting extra services or better timing, Mr Finnerty said.

When contacted, Air New Zealand head of government and regional affairs Reuben Levermore said the airline periodically reviewed its network schedules.

The service’s current timing was designed to best utilise its jet fleet across the network as the airline built back its domestic and international services.

Having a jet aircraft solely dedicated to the route, had not been possible in the post-Covid environment and it was encouraging to see the Southland community continue to support the service.

The airline would continue to meet stakeholders to ensure Southland and its customers were well connected, Mr Levermore said.