Extra Auckland flights 'great for Dunedin'

Dunedin's air connections with Auckland have increased again.

A further five return flights a week have been added to an already busy flight schedule at Dunedin airport.

The flights, announced yesterday, are a big turnaround from just four years ago when flights were being dropped and the city's business community was up in arms about the difficulty of flying to other centres to do business.

Air New Zealand announced at the Trenz tourism conference in Dunedin yesterday it would start operating five additional return A320 services per week between Dunedin and Auckland from October.

That would add about 70,000 seats a year between the cities, increasing capacity on the route by about 25%.

There will be new 6am flights from Dunedin on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 8pm flights from Auckland on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

The new flights are timed to allow Dunedin business travellers to spend a full day in the city, leaving early in the morning and coming home in the evening.

The flight times also enable connections via Auckland to international destinations, without requiring long waits or overnight stays.

Air New Zealand chief revenue officer Cam Wallace said yesterday the company had a good relationship with Dunedin Airport.

Airport chief executive Richard Roberts, he said, was ''a force of nature'' who was regularly in Air New Zealand's head office, and the new flights were an endorsement of the work done.

''We are committed to growing services between Dunedin and Auckland and working closely with Dunedin Airport.

''Dunedin is a really important part of Air New Zealand's network, so it's tremendous to see continued strong demand for services to and from the city,'' Mr Wallace said.

Mr Roberts said the news of the extra flights was ''great for Dunedin and the region''.

''It's connecting us to Auckland and the rest of the world.''

The latest statistics coming from the Government showed the tourism boom was only going to keep getting bigger, he said.

''We can sit here and do nothing and it will grow. It's whether we want to be ahead of the curve.''

The airport helped get Air New Zealand to sponsor and work with iD Dunedin Fashion Week, so the relationship was for the betterment of everybody in the city and region, he said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said while he had not had time to process the news, on face of it the announcement was ''absolutely fantastic''.

''Because we're a small city, that connectivity can only help us.''

It showed how well the city was working together with companies like Air New Zealand, he said.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said the announcement was the culmination of the work of many different groups.

''It's the response to a demand and shows the strength of Dunedin's relationship with Air New Zealand.''

Business leaders in Dunedin were ''very busy'' creating and maintaining relationships with New Zealand's largest city, he said.

-Additionally reported by Jono Edwards

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