Air link between resorts to be trialled

A Queenstown scenic flight operator is trialling return flights to Te Anau - the first service linking the two tourist towns in at least 16 years.

Air Milford, which is based at Queenstown Airport, starts a 12-week trial service between the two towns on January 14.

Te Anau Airport Manapouri manager Evan Pearce said a reliable link between the two destinations was well overdue and it would be a real boost to the Southland town's community.

''I personally flew one of the final flights into the then Manapouri Airport whilst employed with Mount Cook Airline, now part of Air New Zealand, and it is a personal pleasure to see this happening again.''

Air Milford's operations manager Antony Sproull said the service would run every Saturday through the peak tourist season.

Mt Cook Airline ceased its Queenstown-Te Anau service more than 16 years ago.

''If Mt Cook Airline could justify 44-seat aircraft then we should have no trouble filling our four- to 12-seat machines,'' Mr Sproull said.

The tourism scene in Queenstown and Te Anau had never been busier, he said.

A feasibility study into the proposed service highlighted increasing frustrations with the road trip - which used to take less than two hours, but because of traffic and congestion near Queenstown often took significantly longer.

Flights take about 25 minutes.

Air Milford said it would charge $99 a seat.

Mr Sproull - whose father Hank, Air Milford's chief executive, worked for Mount Cook Airline for 27 years - said if the service exceeded expectations a permanent service could start the following summer.

An open day is planned at Te Anau Manapouri Airport this Saturday, between 12.30pm and 2.30pm, to launch the service.

Air Milford operates a fleet of five aircraft including three Cessna Caravans.

david.williams@odt.co.nz

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