“UNDER budget, and on time.”
Invercargill Airport chairman Tommy Foggo was proud to declare the rare statement in the countdown to the Auckland to Invercargill direct flight jet service which begins on Sunday.
Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said the upgrade, which began in early May, was in its final stages and would be ready for the longest regional flight in New Zealand.
The first flight will land in the deep south on Sunday at 9.35pm, with Invercargill’s first flight to Auckland taking off the next day at 6am.
Mr Foggo said capacity for a jet service had been built into the airport “on the chance one day Invercargill would get the service”.
“Which had made it easier to convert,” Mr Finnerty said.
The new flights would be a game changer for Southland, they said.
“6am out of Invercargill… 7.55am, land in Auckland – people can have 11 hours in Auckland for business or daytime shopping.”
Not only would passengers and tourists benefit from the direct flights, the potential for cargo had also increased, with a potential of up to 2.3 tonnes a day, they said.
“Invercargill is suddenly connected to big markets… and connected to the world,” Mr Finnerty said.
“Perishable freight, such as salmon can leave Bluff in the morning and be in a high-end restaurant in time for lunch in Auckland.”
Mr Finnerty said he was proud so much had been achieved in such a short period of time.
“Landing jets is quite different from landing turbo-propelled planes.”
Because a jet could take more passengers, it meant security had to be increased, Mr Finnerty said.
While procedures for current regional flights would remain the same, flights to Auckland would require luggage to be checked in through the new baggage screening lane, which meant passengers would need to arrive earlier to be processed through the additional checks.
In preparation for the new service, the airport had been redeveloped inside the terminal, including a secure departure lounge for up to 120 people, with a small cafe, a new baggage screening area at check-in, a security baggage lane with x-ray machine and upgraded aircraft parking hardstand for the jet, which would provide extra strength and support for the plane when it was parked on the tarmac overnight.
Along with the many changes at the airport, Mr Finnerty said people would also most likely notice a difference in the types of aircraft flying in and out of Invercargill, and as a result a difference in noise levels.
“The jets are larger than the planes that typically fly in and out of Invercargill.,” Mr Finnerty said.
More staff had been hired, including an increase in the fire and emergency crew from five to 10, and Civil Aviation Security employing 11 staff, eight locally and three who transferred from other centres.
Currently the airport had 16 full-time and 13 part-time staff, which Mr Finnerty said could potentially increase, “particularly if we got more jets”. The service will run five days a week from Invercargill on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and return from Auckland on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The new service will land in Invercargill at 9.30am and depart at 6am, except on Saturdays which is a 9.15am departure.