Auckland flights welcomed

It took exactly 100 days, but jet services are back in Invercargill.

Southland’s civic leaders celebrated the return of direct flights from Auckland yesterday.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran was on the flight, and was impressed with the "party" Southlanders organised.

"I have to say what we experienced today surpasses everything else I’ve seen."

He said Southlanders had supported the flights, and about 10,000 seats had been booked since August last year.

Mr Foran was confident the company would maintain the directs flights between the cities.

"Remember that we have a lot of New Zealanders who can’t travel overseas ... why not come down here?"

He suggested Kiwis should visit Stewart Island and Fiordland; the last time he had been there was 40 years ago.

Great South chief executive Graham Budd said the return of passenger jets was a boost in confidence for the region.

Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty echoed the positive sentiment, saying it was "really exciting" to see people in the airport once again.

"It [the jet service] has come back much faster than we predicted. Now we have all our connections back to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It is a really great day."

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