Boost in resort passengers

Queenstown Airport's passenger numbers for December continued on from a similarly impressive...
Queenstown Airport's passenger numbers for December continued on from a similarly impressive November. Pictured; a Mount Cook Airlines ATR-72 departing Queenstown, last August. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
An additional 132 international and domestic flights into Queenstown Airport during December saw a respective 51% and almost 20% boost to passenger numbers for the month, listed Auckland International Airport (AIA) reported yesterday.

While AIA, which owns a 25% stake in Queenstown airport, had its busiest week to date, ending on December 23, processing 172,800 international passengers, Queenstown's upturn was credited to an additional 64 international and 68 domestic flights.

Released separately by Air New Zealand yesterday, domestic and short-haul passenger numbers underpinned a 3.3% boost for the national carrier passenger numbers during December - up to 1.35 million people.

Craigs Investment Partners broker, Greg Easton, said the Air New Zealand update was a ''solid result'', with the historic domestic use in December the main boost for numbers.

He noted long-haul demand was down, likely reflecting the economic conditions at present, notably the decrease revolving around Asia/Japan demand.

He described the AIA record in late-December and the boost to Queenstown passenger numbers as ''impressive'', and expected AIA would be pleased with its investment in Queenstown.

Internationals through Queenstown were up from 14,678 a year before to 22,285, while domestic numbers were up from 74,719 to 89,043.

Shares in Air New Zealand gained 1c, trading about $1.26, after the announcement, while shares in AIA continued to trade about $2.84, barely changed.

A month earlier in November, Queenstown was also the star performer for AIA, as international passenger numbers were up 17.5% on the previous November, driven by 32 additional international flights, while domestic passenger numbers were up 18.4%.

Mr Easton noted that flights from Cairns airport, in which AIA also has a stake, revealed a decline of 4.9% in international aircraft movements, and while passenger numbers were up, the trend could be reflecting tougher economic times in Australia.

Air New Zealand has just started daily return services to Shanghai, for the first time since the route was launched in 2006.

''The Shanghai region is home to around 23 million people and the city is a gateway for the rapidly growing Chinese market,'' Air New Zealand said in a statement. China was now New Zealand's second-largest inbound tourist market, after Australia, having recently overtaken both North America and the United Kingdom. Short-haul passenger numbers were up 3.9% on the corresponding period last year and demand increased in the domestic market by 6.1%.

The Tasman-Pacific demand increased 4.7%, driven mostly by the introduction of B777 aircraft on the Auckland-Perth route.

Long-haul passenger numbers decreased 0.8% compared with December last year. On North America-UK routes, demand increased 6.3%, while demand on the Asia-Japan-UK routes was down 3.5%.

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