It is good to see that Air New Zealand has finally decided to drop the price of some fares for flights between Auckland and Hawke's Bay.
This paper has in the past called for the national carrier to do this in a bid to get tourists here and at first glance it seems they have done this. Finally the airline has listened and reduced the price of some fares for flights from Auckland by 11 per cent and from Christchurch by 18 per cent. But it could have been more - the price reduction is only for the first seats sold and from my reading of the Air NZ press statement, if you are late with your booking, you will still pay more for a seat.
Air NZ said yesterday it was cutting prices to help stimulate tourism into the region. While I am happy they have cut some of the prices the question is: Why not reduce all the fares?
For the past six months I have been travelling back to Auckland every fortnight because most of my family is still there. I have been shocked by the prices at times. I have learnt quite quickly to book well in advance to avoid paying more than $300 for a one way ticket to or from Auckland. It appears that late bookers will still be penalised by having to pay these high fares.
Anyway, at least Air NZ is doing something. It is also investing US$161 million in new ATR72-600 aircraft to fly regional routes. The first of these will be delivered in October. Bigger planes mean more people coming into our region. The combination of some cheap fares and bigger planes can only be good for our tourism.
We have a lot to offer tourists and it is vital that we get them here so they can enjoy all we have to offer. There is a lot coming up this summer - the Food and Wine Classic and Kai in the Bay - we need all the people we can get. If the tourists come, our motel and hotel industry will get a welcome boost after a lethargic winter.
This is a positive step, but long term we still need direct flights from Australia and competition to Air NZ to bring the fares down even more. This is where our councils and the airport company need to make some longer term plans.