Mainland Air to start Dunedin flights to Queenstown, Christchurch

Dunedin-based Mainland Air is planning to launch routes from Dunedin International Airport to Queenstown and Christchurch within three weeks.

Mainland Air operations manager Philip Kean said it was planned to operate flights to and from Christchurch on Fridays and Sundays and a service to and from Queenstown on Thursdays.

If there was demand, the Dunedin-to-Christchurch flight could stop in Oamaru to pick up passengers.

It was hoped the routes would be operating by October 19, Mr Kean said.

The company would trial the routes during the summer and would halt them if there were not enough passengers.

"We won't give it very long at all. Our business plan is that if it's not paying, we will withdraw it straight away," he said.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie welcomed the move and said there was "a lot of interest" from business travellers in the route between Queenstown and Dunedin.

"It's one of the longest routes that isn't serviced in New Zealand, but it's one that has often come to our attention," Mr Christie said.

He believed the convenience of being able to fly between the two centres meant the route would be popular, as long as it was "priced right".

Mr Kean said the proposed price for a flight to Queenstown was about $170 each way, while a ticket to Christchurch would cost about $200 each way. The price would be the same whether people booked in advance or on the day of the flight.

The company's only 10-seat Piper Chieftain would be used for both services - allowing room for nine passengers and one crew member.

The decision to launch came after interest from people who were keen to see the company service the routes, he said.

The flights to and from Queenstown - which were not offered by any other airline - would target business people who could save time by taking a flight and spend more productive hours working.

The Christchurch flight would benefit last-minute travellers, with tickets a "shade cheaper" than Air New Zealand's for people who booked flights on the day.

Asked why he thought the new venture would be a success when a service offered by the company to and from Queenstown in 2007 had to be abandoned due to a lack of passengers, he said: "We are hopefully coming out of the recession and it might be a good time to try it.""In 2007, everything was peaking, then everything fell over with the recession. People just didn't want to travel or couldn't afford to travel," he said.

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