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Hamilton Airport – a destination in its own right

Geoff Taylor, Waikato Business News

Hamilton Waikato Tourism Industry Symposium, Hamilton Airport, Wednesday 23 November 2016. Photo: Stephen Barker / Barker Photography.  ©Hamilton Airport Ltd

Hamilton Airport is a popular destination these days – and not just for travellers.

Hard on the heels of the successful opening of the airport’s new destination café, the Mavis Lounge, a new Mavis & Co, the airport has celebrated the launch of its conference facilities.

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism’s industry symposium on November 23 proved to be the perfect occasion to unveil the airport’s four conference rooms utilising previously unused terminal space.

The response from attendees at the symposium was enthusiastic. 

The new offering comprises two large rooms capable of seating more than 100 and ideal for a variety of formal dinners and functions and two smaller rooms ideal for presentations or board meetings.  Matching that is a comprehensive, top quality food and beverage offering, free car parking for delegates and the intention to offer hot desking facilities for businesspeople.

Already the introduction of Mavis Lounge has created a “fantastic” response, according to airport chief executive Mark Morgan who says its presence has changed the whole atmosphere and environment of the mezzanine floor.

It’s all part of the airport management’s desire to emphasise that the airport is a place for people to come and enjoy themselves, not just to fly in or out of.

“Our message is simple; it’s your airport – come and enjoy it. We would like nothing better than to see Waikato people come in here for brunch, relax and plane spot.

“And similarly, make the most of our meeting and convention space. It’s an easy destination to get in and out of and it’s a pleasant place to come.”

Airport finances sound

The new attractions are the result of some hard consolidation work over the last two years to steer the airport into a sound financial position. A new board and new chief executive Mark Morgan came in with a clear mandate from shareholding councils: to create a strong viable regional airport. The objective was to get the finances back in order and create a sustainable business.

The airport’s Titanium Park Joint Venture was dissolved by the board on March 31. In its place is the Titanium Park Ltd (TPL) board, a subsidiary of the airport which is charged with maximising income from the airport’s extensive land holdings and tenancies.  To help ensure that perpetual property income, a comprehensive development plan is to be put before the airport board and shareholding councils early next year.  The land is perfectly positioned for developers; it is more competitively priced than north of the city, there are no development costs for developers and TPL is in total control of the landholdings, making it responsive and flexible and it can ensure that design guidelines protect the property value and working environment of all land owners and tenants on the airport precinct

Furthermore, the impending development of the Peacocke subdivision is likely to bring forward the long-awaited Southern Links roading network, providing a better connection to SH1 and the Port of Tauranga.

All of these factors make the land an increasingly attractive proposition for businesses to relocate to the Airport.

Mr Morgan is confident that over time, the property holdings will create a strong non-aeronautical revenue base to supplement the airport’s income. 

Passenger numbers on the increase

With patronage across Hamilton’s three main regional routes on the rise and the second highest total aircraft movements in the country, Hamilton Airport’s books are heading back into the black and ahead of budget. 

From October, patronage on flights between Hamilton and Palmerston North has jumped massively as capacity was boosted when the 50-seater Q300 replaced the 19-seater Beech aircraft 1900D.  Schedules have been aligned to allow Palmerston North-bound passengers to then fly on to Wellington if they desire. In the last two months, year on year patronage on this route has jumped by up to 90 percent.

Capacity between Hamilton and Wellington has been boosted as new 68-seat ATR72-600 aircraft have been introduced on all peak time services, providing more seating and quicker flight times. In addition, the Christchurch schedule has been increased with an additional daily service. ATR72-600 are the most efficient aircraft in their class and feature a new cabin layout, larger overhead bins, and advanced cockpit technology.

Over the past two months, year on year, patronage on Hamilton’s three routes between Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch are up about 10 percent.

Premium customer experience

Having all the basics in place has allowed Hamilton Airport’s management to focus on ensuring a premium customer experience.

The establishment of the café and conference facilities not only makes the airport an attractive destination, it creates further revenue creating possibilities.

Meanwhile Air New Zealand has invested significantly in the airport, including spending well in excess of $1 million on its new regional lounge which opened earlier this year.  The new-look lounge seats 92 people, boasts prime views of the runway and surrounding farmland and provides guests with buffet and light refreshments as well as bar facilities. For business travelers, there is access to Wi-Fi, a photocopier/printer and USB and power points at most seats.

In the near future, Air New Zealand will follow this with a comprehensive revamp of its check-in facilities which will further enhance the experience for airport customers.

The exciting infrastructural changes have been complemented by up to a 10 percent drop in regional airfares and scheduling improvements instituted as part of Air New Zealand’s regional strategy.

With research showing the airport’s catchment will grow by about 50,000 people in the next decade, there is no reason why passenger numbers won’t continue to rise. 

Also, Hamilton Airport is in prime position to capitalise on traveller’s unwillingness to face traffic congestion and high accommodation prices in Auckland, particularly as the price differential between flying out of the two airport’s narrows.

The airport board consolidation over the last two years has paid off. The basics are in place and the new vision to create a destination in its own right is already paying dividends.

 Hamilton Airport is perfectly placed to maximise on the growth opportunities ahead.

November 2016

Source: Waikato Business News