Air Chathams returns to Norfolk Island, Air New Zealand to restore services

All routes lead to Norfolk Island.

Air Chathams’ return to the Norfolk Island route today marks the first time in 15 months that New Zealanders have been able to fly direct to the Australian territory.

And Air New Zealand announced today that it has extended its agreement with the Australian Government to operate flights between Norfolk Island and Australia fromAugust 30 for two years.

Under the agreement, Air New Zealand will use its A320 aircraft to operate up to three flights per week from Brisbane and three flights from Sydney.

Air New Zealand chief operating officer Carrie Hurihanganui says the airline will establish a temporary pilot and cabin crew base in Brisbane untilNovember 30 to ensure potential disruptions to the travel bubble will not affect continuity of services to Norfolk Island.

Before the transtasman bubble opened in April, crew operating domestic flights in Australia were required to have been in that countryfor 14 days or to have arrived in Australia on a quarantine-free flight.

This resulted in the airline having to suspend services between Norfolk Island and mainland Australia in February.

“Having crew based in Australia will ensure we avoid disruption should the Australian border close again,” says Hurihanganui.

Air Chathams will make the round trip from Auckland every Thursday carrying up to 30 passengers, increasing the frequency to twice a week in August.

Auckland Airport’s general manager aeronautical commercial, Scott Tasker, says it is great to see the airline restart a regular service through to Norfolk Island.

Covid-19 had halted the fledgling service early last year.

“Regionally focused airlines like Air Chathams have played a critical role in keeping New Zealand communities connected over the past year, particularly those domestic airfreight connections that allowed fresh, high-quality New Zealand produce to get out to overseas markets,” says Tasker.

“The Norfolk Island service not only creates another opportunity for travellers to discover a new destination, but also keeps the local community connected for freight and any essential travel.”

Hurihanganui says Air NZ has been operating between Australia and Norfolk Island since 2012, and was the only airline operating scheduled services between the island and mainland Australia during 2020.

“We’d like to thank Qantas for stepping in to operate the route over the past few months to ensure continuity of flights for our customers.”

Air Chathams’ services join other new services out of Auckland Airport launched since transtasman quarantine-free travel opened in mid-April, including Air NZ’s new twice-weekly service to Hobart, Qantas flying to the Gold Coast four to seven times a week, and a Qantas service to Cairns up to three times a week for the winter months.

Tasker says these are important steps on New Zealand’s path to safely reopening to other countries, particularly in the Pacific.

He says transtasman cargo connections are also benefiting from more frequent services.

“If you look back to this time last year, sometimes we saw only one passenger flight a day on the transtasman. Now there’s an average of 12 a day flying between Auckland and Australian destinations.”

Although passenger aircraft flying cargo-only filled the gap in airfreight demand, having quarantine-free travel has added about 17 per cent more cargo capacity across the Tasman, he says.

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