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Invercargill Airport chairman Tommy Foggo said the capacity for a jet service had been built into the airport "on the chance one day Invercargill would get the service".
"Which had made it easier to convert," Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said.
The recent upgrade would play a significant role in making sure the direct flights become a permanent fixture, Mr Finnerty said.
"Landing jets is quite different from landing turbo-propelled planes."
Because a jet could take more passengers, it meant security had to be increased, Mr Finnerty said.
"With new security features, secure lounges and an upgraded apron hardstand, we will be capable of supporting any domestic jet currently operating in New Zealand," he said.
Mr Finnerty said the benefits of the flight service had already begun with a minimum of 13 full-time and 16 part-time jobs at the airport, including an increase in airport rescue personnel and Civil Aviation Security staff.
The new flights would be a game changer for Southland, he said.
Great South chief executive Ann Lockhart said over the next three years, it was estimated the direct economic benefit of the flights could conservatively be between $11.3million and $12.5million for the Southland region.
The flight was expected to arrive at Invercargill Airport at 9.35pm tomorrow, with the inaugural Invercargill to Auckland flight returning on Monday at 6am.
- By Janette Gellatly