New airline takes first bookings
18 March 2015
BROCHURES: Air Chathams commercial manager Noel Gillespie with the new Whakatane Air Services brochures, detailing flight times and fares. Photo Louis Klaassen D1809-5
AIR Chathams is training flight attendants and taking its first bookings as it counts down to the launch of air services in Whakatane.
Commercial manager Noel Gillespie was in the Eastern Bay last week talking to travel agents and distributing brochures ahead of the airline’s takeover in April.
He emphasised the flexibility of the airline with its 50-seater Convair and 18-seater Metroliner aircraft, and their desire to build a service reflecting the needs of Eastern Bay people.
“We are wanting to work very closely with the community. We want it to be a win-win.”
Mr Gillespie said they had initially planned to brand the airline in a way that had synergies with Whakatane but there had not been enough time to do this so, for the time being, it would be simply called Whakatane Air Services, operated by Air Chathams.
They began receiving calls more than three weeks ago from people wanting to make bookings, which could now be done via the redesigned Air Chathams website with flights ranging from $89 to $339.
Air New Zealand is due to fly its last flight out of Whakatane at 6.50am on April 28 and Air Chathams first flight to Whakatane will leave Auckland Airport at 7.15am.
At this stage the Convair would fly out of Whakatane in the morning and back in the evening, Mr Gillespie said.
The 18-seater Metroliner would fly in from Auckland and spend the day at the Whakatane Airport until its return flight to Auckland at 4.30pm. Between times it would be available for charters, Mr Gillespie said.
“If you have a group of 16 wanting to go to Wellington, just ask us. Since it is sitting here we can offer a pretty sharp deal.”
Eventually the airline hoped to offer more of the 50-seat flights.
“We would like to use the Convair all the time but we have to build traffic up and we are hoping by working with the agents and the community we will be able to do that,” he said.
“The agents have told us that one of the problems they have is getting decent-size groups here.”
“We are hoping that with the extra capacity that’s there, and the ability to be flexible that we can build the market.
“We are hoping the Convair will stimulate the market and we can change the schedule to whatever is required. We will listen to whatever the people tell us they want.”
Three flight attendants from Whakatane – two women and a man – are now being trained in the Chatham Islands on the world’s only Convair simulator.
Mr Gillespie said they would then work alongside attendants on other Air Chathams routes to gather experience before the Whakatane air services began.
Source: Whakatane Beacon