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Duelling experts: Wellington airport stands by its runway extension consultants

The national carrier, Air New Zealand, is particularly opposed as it structures its long-haul international routes through Auckland.

Pattrick Smellie
Mon, 15 Aug 2016

Wellington International Airport is sticking by its experts' opinion on the potential demand for long-haul travel to and from the capital city and says a submission against a proposed runway extension prepared for airlines opposed to the initiative has flaws of its own.

WIAL has used international aviation consultancy InterVISTAS to support its claim that commercially viable long haul flights would emerge from Asia and the American west coast if the city's runway were longer, while the Board of Airline Representatives in New Zealand - an airline lobby group - this morning released analysis from a rival firm, Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting, claiming the airport runway extension plans are "implausible at best."

Almost every airline operating to and from New Zealand is opposed to the proposed $300 million, 350-metre runway extension, which the airport's 66% owner, NZX-listed Infratil, wants to see funded mostly from central and local government funds on the basis the runway would not make money for the airport but would be an economic booster for the region.

The national carrier, Air New Zealand, is particularly opposed as it structures its long-haul international routes through Auckland.

Wellington City Council owns the remaining third of WIAL and is supporting the application for a resource consent to extend the runway, submissions for which closed last Friday before Environment Court hearings.

Much of the BARNZ report's analysis rested on a markedly different view about the distances being travelled by passengers to and from Wellington. Its analysis suggested much higher numbers of short-haul trips to Australia and the Pacific Islands, both of which are serviced with the existing Wellington runway, than InterVISTAS found.

In a statement to BusinessDesk, WIAL spokesman Greg Thomas said Ailevon Pacific "appears to have overlooked some key travel patterns."

It had failed to "(allow) correctly for passengers who have had to use two tickets, for instance, to fly to Auckland on Air New Zealand and then on to Kuala Lumpur with, for example, Malaysian Airlines".

"They also have not corrected for travellers who are flying long-haul and stay longer than eight hours in Sydney before travelling to their final destination, such as London."

The Ailevon Pacific report's methodology treated any layover of more than eight hours at a short haul destination, such as Sydney, as constituting a final destination rather than one leg of a longer journey.

"The report claims that InterVISTAS has used too big a catchment," Mr Thomas said. "However, the reality is the current market predominantly comes from those within a two-hour drive of the airport."

The airport also disputed the BARNZ report's claim that Singapore Airline's new service from Wellington via Canberra to Singapore reflected insufficient demand from the Wellington region's catchment for a direct Wellington-Singapore route.

"The truth is it's because our runway isn't long enough," Mr Thomas said.

WIAL stood by its expert report as "robust" and "independent."

(BusinessDesk)

Pattrick Smellie
Mon, 15 Aug 2016
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Duelling experts: Wellington airport stands by its runway extension consultants
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