Another aviation firm has put its hand up to fly the Kaitaia-Auckland route in the wake of Air New Zealand's shock announcement it plans to pull out of the Far North town.
Inflite, an Auckland charter company with two 19-seater aircraft and a history of flying to the Far North, contacted the Far North District Council and Far North Holdings this week to signal its interest. The company had already been approached by councils in other towns which have lost air services in earlier cutbacks by the national carrier.
Inflite's advantage is that it is the only third-level airline already operating planes of the same size as the Beechcraft 1900D Air New Zealand uses on the Kaitaia run. Tauranga-based Sunair Aviation, the first company out of the blocks, has a fleet of six-seater Pipers but is considering leasing a 12-seater Cessna Caravan if it wins the right to fly the Kaitaia route.
Inflite charter manager Paul Aston said it was still early days and the company needed to work out whether the level of demand warranted daily flights or three a week.
"On face value it stacks up. If it does, we'll be in, boots and all. The fit for us in Kaitaia is very strong, more than in other regions."
Inflite specialises in corporate and tourism charters using its two Jetstream J32EP aircraft. It has previously flown between Kaitaia and Auckland as a back-up for Air New Zealand and has good links with the Far North tourism industry.
Mr Aston said it was too early to say what flights would cost but there were likely to be only one or two fare levels, unlike the complex multi-level system used by Air New Zealand. The departure time could be adapted to Kaitaia's needs.
Inflite is flying to Kaitaia on Friday with 16 charter passengers and returning on Saturday to pick up another 12.
The twin-engined Jetstream turboprop will be parked on the runway in Kaitaia from about 4-5pm on Friday for anyone who wants a look. With the plane originally due to fly back empty the company has offered the seats free of charge to members of Kaitaia's business community and, via a GP, Kaitaia residents who need to get to Auckland this weekend but cannot afford to fly.
A very limited number of seats are left. Anyone who wants a free one-way flight to Auckland, departing about 5pm on Friday, can call Mr Aston on 027 230 4407. First come, first served.