Congested Auckland roads may be contributing to an ongoing increase in air travellers choosing to use Hamilton Airport.
The airport saw a 13 percent increase in passengers across core routes (Wellington, Christchurch, Palmerston North) during 2017 with close to 335,000 air travellers going through the gate. That trend looks set to continue with passenger numbers in January 2018 more than 19 percent ahead compared with the same month the previous year.
Waikato Regional Airport Ltd (WRAL), owned by five Waikato-based councils, owns Hamilton Airport. Hamilton & Waikato Tourism and Titanium Park Limited are also WRAL subsidiaries.
WRAL chief executive Mark Morgan said the passenger number increase across core routes was driven by increased capacity and lower fares as well as frustrations over the drive time to and from Auckland.
“Plenty of people tell us they aren’t prepared to deal with the unpredictability of Auckland traffic. When you’re leaving ridiculously early just to make a flight, and then hit bad traffic on the way home, it makes a long day even longer. It’s a lot easier and faster to fly in and out of Hamilton and increasingly, more people are choosing to do that.”
Increased seating capacity had also played a role in the growth, he said. Hamilton Airport has seen a 12 percent increase in available seats after Air New Zealand phased out its 19-seater Beech aircraft in August last year, replacing them with 68 and 50-seater planes.
“As a result, we’ve seen some very competitive prices and locals have been making the most of those low fares. We’ve seen fares as low as $19 to key destinations from Air New Zealand’s Grabaseat and, on top of avoiding Auckland traffic, that’s a pretty good incentive to fly in and out of Hamilton.”
He said the perception that Hamilton was expensive to commute from was simply not the case given considerations like drive time, parking charges and convenience.
Mr Morgan was buoyant about ongoing passenger growth, noting Waikato is one of the fastest growing regions in New Zealand.
“We’re also seeing very steady growth in tourism and in commercial guest nights so we believe the future in terms of passenger numbers is looking positive.”