NZ flights begin

Air New Zealand’s direct service between Sunshine Coast and Auckland began last week as part of the recommencement of quarantine-free trans-Tasman bubble arrangements between New Zealand and Queensland.

The Auckland service was the first international commercial passenger flight to land on Sunshine Coast Airport’s new runway since it opened last June.

The arrival of the A320 aircraft also marked the start of a year-round service between Auckland and Sunshine Coast, thanks to the support of the Queensland Government’s Aviation Recovery Fund.

Sunshine Coast Airport chief executive Andrew Brodie said the year-round service and the reopening of the trans-Tasman bubble was tremendous news for the Sunshine Coast and the local tourism industry as well as the many friends and families who have been eagerly awaiting this news.

“We are so excited to connect people across the ditch for the first time since October 2019 and to welcome our first international passenger flight since the runway opened 12 months ago,” he said.

“New Zealand has traditionally been the largest source of international visitors to the Sunshine Coast, and the additional year-round flights will deliver an extra 14,000 seats to the route every year as well as a further $8 million boost to the local visitor economy.

“It also gives Sunshine Coast residents, including the many Kiwis that call the region home, the chance to fly out of their local airport to Auckland and connect with other trans-Tasman destinations such as Queenstown and Dunedin.”

Air New Zealand’s chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said the service provided more opportunity for Queenslanders to discover New Zealand any time of the year.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming Queenslanders to our shores to experience everything New Zealand has to offer – from our wonderful winter playground to the stunning wineries, there’s something for everyone,“ she said.

“With our year-round direct service launching and good connections onto our domestic network means more opportunity for Queenslanders to discover New Zealand any time of the year.”

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the year-round service was an extension of the existing June-September seasonal services through to May 2022.

Visit Sunshine Coast chief executive officer Matt Stoeckel said, prior to the pandemic, New Zealand was the Sunshine Coast’s number one international market with 84,000 annual visitors, 650,000 visitor nights, and an economic value of $110 million.

“We know there is huge pent-up demand in New Zealand for international travel, and the expansion to year-round direct services to Sunshine Coast Airport will provide a massive boost for the Sunshine Coast tourism industry,” he said.

Tourism Noosa CEO Melanie Anderson said the direct flights from Auckland to the Sunshine Coast provided a welcome opportunity to increase visitor nights and spend into Noosa.

“The commitment from Air New Zealand to providing a year round service is fantastic news for our region,” she said.

“New Zealand has always been a very important visitor mix to our tourism industry and the destination’s economy. Noosa operators are looking forward to welcoming back our fellow Kiwis, and sharing our beautiful sunny winter days, sparkling beaches and rolling green countryside”.