You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Real estate businessman Mike Pero is spreading his wings into aviation with his new company Pasifika Air.
Pero is offering a money back guarantee if Covid-19 grounds flights from Christchurch or Wellington to Rarotonga, or if there's no isolation-free travel.
He told Checkpoint he is aiming for take-off in June.
"We're not a budget airline. Low-cost carriers traditionally race to the bottom.
"We're not competing with Air New Zealand or Jetstar. Where they're going on price, we're going on service, and we'll just maintain a fair and reasonable price.
"We're not trying to be a low-cost carrier. It surprises me that airlines are still going out there, across the ditch we've got three airlines there – Qantas, Rex and Virgin Australia – and they're all competing on price, they're all saying that we can be cheaper across Australia than your taxi fare to the airport.
"They're setting each other up to fail. I think there will be fallout because they don't have the aviation market that they had 12 months ago. It's all gone and now we've got three airlines scraping for the lowest price."
"But what we're saying is I don't want to compete on price, we won't compete on price, we'll give you an experience that only Pasifika can do."
He said by the end of March, people can go online and see what the airline's offering is.
"We've got a great team. It's all New Zealanders, and pretty much the whole operation is based in New Zealand. We're using Boeing aircraft. Good Boeing aircraft, and… the service standards and delivery will be what Kiwis want."
The planes are not yet in New Zealand though.
"We're just waiting for the right time. There's aircraft across the world. We want a particular type and a particular standard, and at this stage we're negotiating with I'd say about nine lease options," Pero said.
He is also confident about having pilots and cabin crew ready, although none have signed contracts.
"Initially we'll be running two captains, not a co-pilot but two captains on every flight and they'll come from the very best. Unfortunately some of these guys have left Virgin Australia or were made redundant but these are the very top guys.
"Same with the flight attendants, we've got a great choice and they're all Boeing 737-qualified."
There will be six return flights between New Zealand and the Cook Islands each week, he said, with Christchurch or Wellington being the ports here.
And he promises refunds will be easy.
"Unlike any other airline in New Zealand, all pre-payments will be held in Public Trust… and we won't touch the money until they've flown.
"We don't want to take off with their money, we don't want to give them credit… It'll be just three or four clicks, with the booking reference, their surname and data, and they'll get their refund within five days."
The fledgling airline is being funded by some wealthy investors, but Pero would not reveal who is involved.
"We've been overwhelmed with the amount of support out of New Zealand and the Pacific.
"We're serious investors and you'll see when the final line-up of directors is appointed. There's a hell of a lot of experience there in airlines, and the people we've got, our six senior managers with over 180 years' experience in airlines.
"They've all been involved in airlines and we know what we're doing."