Failed airline entrepreneur Ewan Wilson targets regional routes

Ewan Wilson, the founder of failed mid-1990s Kiwi Travel International Airlines, is eyeing up investors to take on at least some of the regional air routes being abandoned by Air New Zealand [NZX: AIR], with the principals of imported used car dealers 2 Cheap Cars the first to put up their hands.

A name for the company, Kiwi Regional Airlines, has been accepted by the Companies Office, but as yet has no details, including directors, have been listed and it so far has no website. Wilson is not listed as a director or shareholder of any other New Zealand companies.

Air New Zealand announced last month it was abandoning services from Auckland to Kaitaia and Whakatane, Wellington to Whangarei, Taupo and Westport, and the Palmerston North to Nelson service in April next year, while the Auckland to Hamilton service will end in February 2016. The national carrier has offered to make load factors and other commercial information relating to the routes available to would-be operators after concluding it could not run them profitably.

Wilson was banned from being a director for five years after four fraud convictions following the collapse of Hamilton-based Kiwi Air after it collapsed in 1996 under the weight of competition from Air New Zealand subsidiaries Freedom Air, now defunct, and Mt Cook Airlines and logistical problems created by his leased aircraft being too often fog-bound at Hamilton airport.

2 Cheap Cars chief executive Eugene Williams told BusinessDesk his company's investment in the venture would be "substantial" but would not comment on the size of his intended shareholding, saying Wilson was negotiating with other potential investors "related to tourism in New Zealand".

His role would be "giving advice on marketing".

While he could not comment on the type or ownership of aircraft the airline might use, he said it would not be competing with scenic flight operators and would seek to appeal to "the business traveller who doesn't want to fly in a single engine Cessna".

He expected KRA to be operating in 2016 "with further consortium partners being announced soon".

2 Cheap Cars turned over $40 million in its last financial year, Williams said in a statement announcing his involvement. The company has two directors listed at the Companies Office, Williams and Yusuke Seno, and both are recorded as living at the same Auckland address. The company has become a force in the market for used imported cars from Japan.

(BusinessDesk)

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