Why Air New Zealand and other Airlines will never use a longer Wellington runway

So far missed by the local media an interview this morning was a Radio NZ piece talking to the CEO of Air New Zealand. While Air New Zealand didn’t explicitly rule out flying long haul routes from here, the evidence was absolutely damning. One thing is for sure, you could build an airport extension as long as you like, but Air New Zealand won’t be taking advantage of it.

Air New Zealand explains that in order to setup a long haul route Air New Zealand (or any airline for that matter) they must make an investment of between $300m and $400m because it requires two wide-bodied aircraft. Each route costs a further $160m a year to run and relies on filling a three hundred seat aircraft to about 80%, or two-hundred thousand people over a year. The Air NZ CEO points out that up to nine airlines have pulled out of New Zealand because of this investment, and they already had access to a longer airport, Auckland.

“The data that the Wellington City Council has tells us that there are twelve Wellingtonians that want to go to Singapore. There is probably about fourteen people going to Hong Kong. So even if we flew a 777 from Wellington to Singapore we might get a three-fold increase in passengers (36), which would be unprecedented in airline experience.

“How will the tourists come if an airline does not want to fly and it’s not sustainable for them?”

Shame they didn’t put that information on the “consultation” page. Basically, there is no demand. So let’s flip that, the counter-argument being that tourists will come if we build a long runway argument.

“So even if you are looking at the incoming, rather than the outgoing, it doesn’t add up, and even if it is via a stopover in Singapore, you are saying that it doesn’t add up to bring these planes into Wellington?”

“Correct.”

Source

That is the Chief Executive of Air New Zealand who also notes that up to nine other airlines have pulled out of New Zealand, Auckland, which already has the runway to manage the larger craft.

Finally:

“If it is going to cost $350 million to build a runway, that airlines may not use, wouldn’t it be better to build the proposition of Wellington in other ways?”

Air New Zealand goes on to say that the strategy is to create excellent connectivity between Australian’s Eastern Seaboard and Wellington, and Wellington and Auckland.

Boom. If anyone was in any doubt before over the financial viability of this project and it’s expected outcomes or even if a single airline wants in, they should be now clear.

It’s a lemon.

Meanwhile, we, the people, have paid millions to follow this folly and have committed millions more, with no public consultation.

Justin Lester seems to be leading the charge on this still and it will be interesting to see if the Dominion Post picks this up. Someone should ask each and every one of the Councillors, and the Mayor, where they stand on this, in particular the Deputy Mayor, who appears to have committed us to $90 million of expenditure without consultation even being completed, nor a business case.

Air New Zealand is right. $350 million goes a long way in other places.

The White Elephant is starting to show through.

Posted in