27 Oct 2015

Difficult first day for new regional airline

8:18 pm on 27 October 2015

It's been a dramatic first day of mixed fortunes for Kiwi Regional Airlines, with the airline facing weather delays and announcing a dramatic cut to its schedules within the first eight hours of operations.

Passengers disembark from Kiwi Regional Airlines Flight KRL 1 in Queenstown, after arrival from Dunedin.

Passengers disembark from Kiwi Regional Airlines Flight KRL 1 in Queenstown, after arrival from Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Peter Newport

The new airline is being run by Ewan Wilson, the man behind the Kiwi Travel International airline, which went bust 20 years ago owing $8 million.

Mr Wilson said his approach was different this time - rather than trying to take on the big players like Air New Zealand head to head, he planned to fill a regional gap, seeking out regional routes where there was sufficient customer demand for a reasonably priced service.

The airline plans to connect Dunedin, Queenstown, Nelson and Hamilton.

But in a surprise move this afternoon it announced that over 50 per cent of the planned Dunedin to Queenstown flights would be removed from the schedule because of low ticket sales. The airline said ticket sales on the other sectors were strong and that those routes were not in doubt.

Mr Wilson claimed that it was this type of ability to rapidly cut, and add, new flights which would help the airline survive. He planned to only fly routes that made money and said it would be up to the flying public to decide if they wanted proper competition in the domestic air travel market.

Today's inaugural flight from Dunedin to Queenstown, Flight KRL1, was an hour and a half late due to delays caused by heavy cloud over the Queenstown area.

Inaugural Kiwi Regional Airlines Flight KRL 1 this morning - a flight from Dunedin to Queenstown.

Inaugural Kiwi Regional Airlines Flight KRL 1 this morning - a flight from Dunedin to Queenstown. Photo: RNZ / Peter Newport

Mr Wilson brushed off the delay as a normal operational challenge.

"Clearly, we can't control the weather. It tested our systems and our processes, so we were late. But we operated safely. I'm really proud to have operated our first flight into Queenstown, and it's been 20 years since Kiwi has flown - it's great to see the name up in the air."

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