The reintroduction of domestic air travel under Alert Level 2 will be a huge step forward for the Nelson and Tasman region, says Nelson Airport CEO Rob Evans.

Rob says that the rules around air travel for level 2 are “much better than expected”.

“We can see a real return to domestic travel … As a geographically isolated region, air travel is critical for us. Not just for our tourism, but for business too.”

Rob says that under level 2 Nelson Airport will be operating five flights per day, with two services to Auckland, two to Wellington, and one to Christchurch.

“These are the key Air New Zealand routes, so it will be good to have those up and running again.”

Rob says that air travel will feel quite different than what people have been used to.

“Physical distancing will be key, and they can only use half the seats.”

He says, in the short term, there will be a lot of changes. People’s attitudes might be slightly different, and there are some good things that will come out of this in terms of hygiene practice and health and safety.

However, Rob says that while travel may feel different for a time being, things will eventually return to some sort of normal.

“I think mankind is always destined to travel and explore. Aviation is still an exciting way to travel, and I think people will re-engage with that.

Originair CEO Rob Inglis says that the lockdown has been disappointing after a strong summer for Originair.

“We had a very stronger summer and were planning to expand our services, but from a schedule point of view we haven’t been able to operate.”

He says that being able to operate charter flights for essential service workers has “been very helpful”. Rob says that it may be difficult for Originair to operate under level 2 restrictions.

“We are concerned that it would be difficult to meet the Government’s physical distancing requirements in any aircraft, including our smaller craft.”

Rob says that air travel in the Nelson region will look different for the rest of the year.

“During the winter period, 25 per cent of the traffic is leaving Nelson to catch international flights – that will reduce travel too.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand has proposed closing its heavy maintenance facility in Nelson, resulting in the loss of 100 highly skilled jobs. The proposal would see the facility moved from Nelson to Christchurch.

A petition to keep the facility in Nelson, launched by Willie Snowden, has now received over 16,000 signatures. Nelson mayor Rachel Reese, Tasman mayor Tim King, and Nelson Airport chair Paul Steere sent a joint letter to Air New Zealand to ask for an opportunity to discuss the relocation proposal.

Rob Evans said there is a lot of concern for those in the community who might be affected by the move.

“The flow on effect of those families and the wider community, that will be really difficult.

“We are working with regional maintenance to do our best to try and keep it here.”

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