Hamilton Airport has brushed aside gloomy aviation predictions and is celebrating more flights than ever before in and out of the regional airport, with direct routes to four centres.
The release of Air New Zealand's latest schedule sees flights in and out of Hamilton Airport exceeding pre-COVID levels and includes earlier starts and later finishes to provide more domestic connections and cater for a buoyant business market.
The 7.35am flight to Wellington has returned and a new flight, departing at 6am, has been added. The 7.20pm return flight from Wellington is back and another Christchurch to Hamilton afternoon return flight has been added.
In all, Air New Zealand has increased its Hamilton presence to 160 flights a week, increasing seating capacity by around 10 per cent.
Air New Zealand head of tourism and regional affairs Reuben Levermore says: "We're pleased to be able to boost capacity by adding additional services to meet business travel demands and connect more New Zealanders to Hamilton."
Originair has also introduced a new daily service from Hamilton to Palmerston North, Nelson and return after successfully launching the service in October. There is also a new direct service from Hamilton to Nelson on Friday evening.
Waikato Regional Airport Ltd chief executive Mark Morgan said after a very tough year for aviation, 2021 was looking more positive.
"Part of that has been driven by a much healthier domestic tourism market which is great to see. But there's also been a lot of support from the Waikato business community. They have proven there is demand for increased services out of Hamilton and Air New Zealand has responded so kudos to them for that," he said.
"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," he said.
"It's a confident move from both Originair and Air New Zealand to increase flights and we welcome it with open arms."
Hamilton & 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," says Dawson.