Sunday, 16 December 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Air Auckland to fly scheduled passenger service between Whitianga and Ardmore

Air Auckland announced last week that they will start on Monday 3 December to fly a daily scheduled passenger service between Whitianga and Ardmore Airport south of Auckland.

Mike Foster, the CEO of Air Auckland, met on Friday last week at the Whitianga Airport with Bill Beard, president of the Mercury Bay Aero Club, to confirm the arrangement. Mike was accompanied by Elaine Siyin Qian, and Air Auckland director, and Mike Harding, one of the seven Air Auckland pilots.

Whitianga doesn’t have at the moment a scheduled air service to Auckland. Tauranga-based Sun Air is flying a scheduled service between Tauranga, Whitianga and Great Barrier Island.

“We’ll also provide from 3 December a daily scheduled passenger service between Ardmore and Great Barrier Island,” says Mike. “We’ll effectively be codesharing with Sunair as our Whitianga and Great Barrier Island departure times will align with Sunair’s arrival times.”

Air Auckland started out as Flight Hauraki and mostly focused on scenic and charter flights out of Waiheke Island. The airline has recently ceased its Waiheke Island operations and has identified scheduled services between Ardmore and Whitianga as a gap in the market.

“Flying scheduled services will be in addition to our charter business, which remains very strong,” says Mike. “We have an arrangement with Pepper Tree Restaurant in Coromandel Town that’s meeting the demand of Auckland residents looking for a lunch experience on the other side of the Hauraki Gulf and we have not long ago received consent to fly into Slipper Island. We also believe Pauanui has promise as a charter destination from Auckland.

“That having been said, we have the capability, and are willing, to fly charters from and to anywhere in New Zealand. We’re already happy to operate between Whitianga and Ardmore, but until 3 December that will be on a charter basis.”

Air Auckland will fly four-seater Cessna 172 and six-seater Piper Aztec aeroplanes between Whitianga and Ardmore. “What we fly is dependent on our number of passengers,” says Mike.

The airline is based at the DC3 hangar in Corsair Lane at Ardmore Airport. “We provide free transport between our Ardmore base and the Takanini and Papakura train stations,” says Mike. “A train to the Auckland CBD runs every 20 minutes from both stations and takes approximately 50 minutes to get to the CBD.

“We have free long-term parking available at Ardmore, ideal for Auckland residents who want to visit friends and family in Whitianga.”

Air Auckland will initially fly a single daily service between Whitianga and Ardmore, departing Ardmore at 10:45am and Whitianga at 12:15pm. Flight duration is approximately 25 minutes. “We’ll see how it goes,” says Mike.  “If the demand is there, we’ll increase our number of scheduled flights and may end up basing an aeroplane in Whitianga.”

Bill Beard says the Mercury Bay Aero Club, the owner of the Whitianga Airport, is pleased with Air Auckland’s new scheduled service to Ardmore. “There definitely is a need for an air service between Whitianga and Auckland,” he says. “We constantly field calls from people enquiring if they can fly to Auckland.”

Air Auckland flights between Whitianga and Ardmore will cost $149 one way and can now already be booked on the Air Auckland website, www.airauckland.com. The airline is at the moment running a competition with two free scenic flights up for grabs. See their Facebook page for details.

Pictured is Bill Beard (left), president of the Mercury Bay Aero Club, with (from the left) Mike Foster, Elaine Siyin Qian and Mike Harding of Air Auckland on Friday last week.

 

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.