Sounds Air takes to Wānaka skies
Posted at 6:00am Thursday 05 Nov, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll firstname.lastname@example.org
The first newly scheduled Sounds Air flight 710 departed Wānaka at 8 am on Monday with nine passengers, and arrived in Christchurch before 9 am. After a quick turnaround, the aircraft was back in Wānaka at 10 am. It took off again for Christchurch, with the final daily return to Wānaka departing at 5.20 pm. Passengers were home by 6 pm.
Sounds Air, which operated in eight other destinations around the country including Taupo, Wellington and Nelson had scheduled up to three services in and out of Wānaka per day and up to 15 flights per week. As of last Friday, 200 tickets had been confirmed.
Sounds Air Managing Director Andrew Crawford said he was "pretty encouraged" by the demand for tickets, saying it reinforced the company's decision to provide the new daily service.
"This is fantastic news, not just for Sounds Air, but for the communities of Wānaka and Christchurch who have been so supportive of this proposed service. The survey we commissioned in June this year showed 90 per cent support from the 3,600 respondents, which showed us that we had a ready market for this service."
Crawford said that although Sounds Air was not a big commercial organisation, it intended to last. But its success relied on the dynamics and responsiveness of the communities it serviced.
Queenstown Lakes District Mayor, Jim Boult, said the new service was a positive contributor to the district's recovery from the economic effects of COVID-19.
"The Upper Clutha has backed the introduction of this service, and I sincerely hope it will help underpin and strengthen business connections for the entrepreneurial and innovative community of Wānaka with Christchurch, and further afield," Boult said.
Justin Watson, Chief Aeronautical and Commercial Officer at Christchurch Airport said: "The Sounds Air service between Christchurch and Wānaka is a reflection of the popularity of both places. We know lots of Christchurch residents own and regularly visit a property in Wānaka, while a lot of Wānaka residents frequently travel through here for business. This service will assist both those groups, as well as many others."
Chairman of Sounds Air Ryan Wardman said the operation should be successful because it gave passengers the option of flying to Christchurch and back in a day.
Sounds Air will be the fourth passenger air service to operate out of Wānaka Airport. The last was Eagle Air which ceased in 2013.
The Wānaka- Christchurch service would be especially good for Wānaka-ites conducting business in Christchurch, Crawford said.
The advantages of the nine-seater Pilatus-12 service was there were no queues and no waiting for baggage at a carousel, he said.
"This is a service for people who value their time. The PC-12 is like a private jet. It's fast and comfortable -we give you your bag, and you're on your way."
Two staff would be based in Wānaka, and being able to re-employ a former Sounds Air staff member here was a bonus.
Crawford said the company had wanted to establish the scheduled passenger service in Wānaka since 2018 but "a few things had got in the way" of plans, such as a shortage of aircraft and COVID-19. Eventually, "the stars aligned" this year.
He said they weren't planning a big advertising campaign but with 150 seats available each week "all we want is for people to try the experience and spread the word."
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean was on the first flight bound for Christchurch.
“I was thrilled to be able to book a seat on the inaugural flight,” she said.
“This service could be fantastic for Wānaka and the surrounding area. At a time when the lack of international tourists is causing pain for local businesses, any extra money coming in through domestic travellers is very welcome.”
“As someone who does a lot of flying for work, it's great to have an option which means I can fly from Wānaka to Wellington and return via a connecting flight from Christchurch.”
Read edition 999 of the Wānaka Sun here.