Flights decision 'game-changer' for Queenstown tourism

Queenstown Airport has been given the green light for "game changing" night flights by aviation authorities once improvements are made.

New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority and Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority both approved in principle the safety case for flights in darkness up to 10pm.

Flights are currently only permitted to take-off and land during daylight hours, which restricts airport operations during shorter winter days.

Clearing the safety hurdle is a huge step forward for night flights, long considered a way to make weekend ski breaks far more attractive for Australian visitors who'll be able to fly in on Friday nights after work and depart again on Sunday night.

But the airport must first make 66 infrastructure improvements to its aerodrome and operations before flights can begin, likely in 2016, including widening the runway and new lighting.

And airlines must assess demand for evening services and apply to the regulator for individual operator approval.

Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Scott Paterson says: "The decision by the authorities on both sides of the Tasman to approve the foundation safety case for after-dark flights is a potential game changer for Queenstown's tourism industry and the regional economy.

"Realistically, evening flights wouldn't be introduced before winter 2016, but we now have a very clear roadmap of the technology, infrastructure and operational steps required to enable it to happen."

Queenstown Airport Corporation minority shareholder Auckland Airport, with 24.99 per cent, has praised the decision of the civil aviation authorities.

Auckland Airport's general manager corporate affairs Charles Spillane says: "Today's announcement will benefit New Zealand's tourism industry more than we can imagine. It is great news for our travel and tourism industries.

"Evening flights will significantly benefit passengers and local businesses. This is especially true in winter, when Queenstown is an extremely popular travel destination but the airport's hours of operation are very limited."

"We congratulate and thank everyone at Queenstown Airport, in the aviation industry and in Government who has worked to deliver this change, which will help to grow business for the resort and travel options for residents."

- by Paul Taylor, Mountain Scene 


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