August 28, 2008

Mainland Air Stops Dunedin-Alexandra-Qtown Flights

By CARROLL, Joanne in Alexandra

ALEXANDRA has lost its only scheduled passenger flights.

Mainland Air said it was stopping its service between Dunedin and Queenstown via Alexandra because of a lack of customers.

Manager John Penno said low patronage on the service had "killed profits" .

The service was introduced in November last year.

It had been doing reasonably well in the beginning but patronage had declined this year, Mr Penno said.

"The average flight wasn't two-thirds full. It just wasn't cutting it. If people don't use it, they lose it." Flights ran Monday, Tuesday and Friday between Dunedin and Queenstown and stopped at Alexandra when required. Mr Penno said about 30 percent of the flights had landed in Alexandra.

A 10-seater Piper Chieftain aircraft was used to transport passengers.

Mr Penno said no new bookings would be taken but present bookings would be honoured.

The last flights would be next week, he said.

He did not rule out that the service could be reinstated in the future.

The airport is under the authority of Central Otago District Council.

Council properties manager Mike Kerr said the loss of the flight would not have any financial impact on council but was a loss to the community.

"It's a loss to the town just like any other business leaving," he said.

Mainland Air had been paying a "minor" landing fee by way of an honesty box. Mr Kerr said the council was keen to see the airport being used more.

"We are talking to a number of people who might be interested in the airport for other opportunities." It would be keen to talk to other airlines about having scheduled passenger flights.

(c) 2008 Southland Times, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.