Hamilton Airport has resisted Covid by bouncing back with more domestic flights using bigger aircraft.
Immediately before the Covid lockdown the airport was operating an average of 155 flights in and out of Hamilton via Air New Zealand.
That number dipped to 124 towards the end of 2020.
But in 2021 the number has risen to 174 flights. Air New Zealand operates 160 a week – and its capacity is up 10 per cent – while new arrival Originair 14.
Capacity is also up – the airport is seeing more 69-seat ATR aircraft than the 50-seat Q300 aircraft.
Waikato Regional Airport Ltd chief executive Mark Morgan said after a very tough year for aviation, 2021 is looking more positive.
Part of that was driven by a healthier domestic tourism market.
“But there’s also been a lot of support from the Waikato business community.’
Domestic flights from Hamilton go south to Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch.
Air New Zealand’s latest schedule shows flights in and out of Hamilton Airport exceed pre-Covid levels and include earlier starts and later finishes.
The 7.35am flight to Wellington has returned and a new 6am flight added. The 7.20pm return flight from Wellington is back and another Christchurch to Hamilton afternoon return flight has been added.
Originair has also introduced a daily service from Hamilton to Palmerston North, Nelson and return. There is also a new direct service from Hamilton to Nelson on Friday evening.
“We are seeing a 24 per cent increase in flights between Hamilton and Christchurch and a 14 per cent increase on Wellington routes. That is exceptional growth in any year, let alone a year when we are battling a pandemic and ongoing uncertainty,” Mark Morgan said.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson said it has been pleasing to see the strong rebound and increased capacity in domestic airline connectivity for the Waikato region over the past few months.
“While we acknowledge that some parts of our region are still feeling the impact of international border closures, we are pleased with the increased demand for leisure and business travel for Hamilton, including conferences, meetings and events.
“Kiwis are answering the call to travel Aotearoa New Zealand more than ever before and the strong visitor numbers returning into Hamilton is extremely beneficial for our sector and community.”