Wanaka-Christchurch air service launched

Passenger air travel has returned to Wanaka Airport.

A new Sounds Air passenger service operating between Wanaka and Christchurch launched yesterday, a turbo-prop plane taking off from Wanaka Airport at 8am.

Well-wishers outnumbered the nine passengers on the nine-seater Pilatus PC12 aircraft as they waited in the Southern Alps building, once used by Air New Zealand for passenger services. Southern Alps is providing ground services for the flights.

Queenstown Airport chief executive Colin Keel said the new service was about connecting Wanaka and beyond.

"It might seem counterintuitive to start a new service with Covid but I think it is a perfect opportunity to connect folks across the country and that is why we are so excited about it," he said.

Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford welcomes Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and eight other...
Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford welcomes Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and eight other passengers on the inaugural Sounds Air flight from Christchurch to Wanaka yesterday morning. PHOTO: KERRIE WATERWORTH
Mayor Jim Boult said it was the first commercial flight from Wanaka since 2013 and "it was right for the area at the present time".

Wanaka resident Claudia MacAulay was on the first flight and said she booked tickets for her and her husband Ron as soon as they went online.

"It is fantastic... 15 minutes’ drive to get here, [you] can park your car outside and [it’s] such a good service," she said.

Wanaka passengers were given a bottle of Champagne on arrival in Christchurch after the 45-minute flight, and Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford welcomed passengers with a bottle of Champagne and a handshake when they arrived in Wanaka from Christchurch.

Mr Crawford said the service would comprise 12 return flights a week, "which was ideal for Wanaka Airport as it required no additional infrastructure to be built there".

The Wanaka-Christchurch air link had been more than two years in the planning and he was confident it would be a "good daily service".

Bookings were good ahead of Christmas, he said.



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