Chief exec hops Ditch to support flights to city

Dunedin International Airport Ltd chief executive Daniel De Bono in Melbourne during a two-day...
Dunedin International Airport Ltd chief executive Daniel De Bono in Melbourne during a two-day trip to Australia this week. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The chief executive of Dunedin International Airport Ltd (Dial) has met representatives from Australian airports, airlines and tourism agencies in a bid to get transtasman flights off the ground.

Dial chief executive Daniel De Bono was in Australia for two days earlier this week, as part of efforts to re-establish connections to Dunedin from across the Tasman.

He said he focused on developing links with South East Queensland, where about 100,000 New Zealanders lived and which had three airports.

Mr De Bono said international flights were a "sore spot" for him, but during the trip he had felt energised and optimistic about the chance of reinstating them.

Those he had talked to were "optimistic and smiley", he said.

Four years ago, Virgin Australia withdrew its services from Dunedin Airport and the airport had worked "really hard" to get those flights back, he said.

He did not think there was anything specific standing in the airport’s way of reaching this goal.

It ultimately came down to the economics of airports putting their "skin in the game" for something that was of a significant cost.

Dunedin was competing against a variety of other choices for routes and the city needed to get "in the front of the queue" to convince airports it made the most sense to place their aircraft on a flight path to Dunedin.

Mr De Bono said establishing a new service required airports, tourism agencies and other players to pull a case together.

Dunedin Airport serviced not only the city, but the lower South Island.

There were eight different regional tourism organisations south of the Waitaki River that marketed "parts of our backyard to the world", and discussions with Australian airlines were really about how these groups could grow the lower South Island’s broader tourism product in terms of air capacity.

He noted the response to the campaign of Taieri College pupil Benjamin Paterson, 14, to reinstate international flights to and from Dunedin, backed up the view there was real support for their return.

"I know airports across this part of the world were all aware of the hard mahi Ben has put into this.

"All of these things kind of go into the pot, if you like."