No airline could make money out of it: Air New Zealand savages runway extension
Long haul flights out of Wellington are a pipe dream, according to New Zealand’s national carrier.
But Wellington Airport is already in talks to hook up with Asian airlines to fly direct out of the city, it has been revealed.
On Tuesday Air New Zealand savaged plans for a $300 million runway extension at Wellington airport, saying no airline could make money out of it.
It came as Australia’s Qantas ruled out flying long haul from the airport if the extension went ahead.
CEO Alan Joyce told RNZ on Tuesday that the airline was not interested in utilising Wellington as a hub for anything other than domestic and trans-Tasman flights.
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“We believe that airports shouldn’t over-invest in terminals, in runways, in capability – they’re going to be hard to make a return on,” Joyce said.
Wellington Airport is proposing to extend its runway south by 354 metres to enable wide-bodied jets to use the runway.
Doing so would unlock the potential for direct long-haul services to Asia and North America.
Air New Zealand spokeswoman Emma Field said the airline had maintained a clear position from the outset.
“We have no plans to operate long haul flights into or out of Wellington Airport, as we do not believe, due to fundamental airline economics, that we or any other airline can make long haul flights from Wellington economically viable.”
While the two companies have said no, Wellington Airport is already wooing other airlines to use its runway extension.
On Tuesday Wellington City deputy mayor Justin Lester said the airport was in talks with several Asian airlines to run long-haul flights directly to Asia.
Lester said he could not reveal details of who they were, or the exact number in talks, citing commercial sensitivity.
Singapore Airlines had not discussed any long-haul flights but was committed to running flights to Asia via Canberra – an announcement that caught Qantas and Air New Zealand by surprise, Lester said.
It was no surprise that Qantas had ruled out long haul flights from the airport, he said.
“They’ve been very consistent. Their model is about funnelling people into Australia and from there onwards.”
The arrival of Singapore Airlines had already forced down Qantas and Air New Zealand prices, he said.
Airport communications manager Greg Thomas said the airport had “a great working relationship with Qantas”.
“It is no surprise that they, like Air New Zealand, have said they would not fly long haul out of Wellington. As we have said before, the runway extension will suit an airline that has a hub in Asia.”
The airport will seek resource consent for the project later this year. Wellington ratepayers have contributed $2.9m towards the $5.9m cost of obtaining consent, and have pledged $90m of the $150m that will come from councils across the Wellington region for the project’s construction.
A number of airlines, under the umbrella of industry group the Board of Airlines Representatives New Zealand (Barnz), are opposed to the runway extension. Qantas and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar are members
Joyce echoed one of Barnz’ main concerns: That the airport – which is two-thirds owned by Infratil and a third owned by Wellington City Council – may end up charging airlines more to pay for the runway extension, which could see the price of air fares increase.
“I think a lot of these airports put a huge amount of investment in, they increase the costs for operators and that’s not generally good for the consumer.”
However Lester said only airlines using the runway extension would face long haul charges.