Air New Zealand’s A320 service between Auckland and Hobart will begin on Thursday, April 22. It has been 23 years since Air New Zealand last flew into Hobart. It has also been that long since Hobart had an international air service. Now with Hobart locked in, Air New Zealand will be the sole airline flying nonstop between Auckland and all Australian state capital cities.
Twice weekly flights to Hobart from April 22
Air New Zealand’s Hobart service will initially operate on Thursdays and Sundays. Air New Zealand flight NZ197 will push back from Auckland at 09:00 local time to land in Hobart four hours later at 11:00 local time. After spending 90 minutes on the ground, the plane will head back on the same day. NZ198 will depart Hobart at 12:30 local time to land in Auckland three and a half hours later at 18:00 local time. The flights are now available to purchase.
“Tasmania welcomed 25,000 visitors per year from New Zealand prior to COVID-19, so we only expect this to increase without the requirement to transit via the mainland,” said Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein in a statement.
“Tasmania has some of the best tourism experiences in the world. I’m sure New Zealanders will be very keen to fly directly here.”
The flights come on the back of the Australian Government recently tipping US$38 million into Hobart’s quixotic quest to secure international flights. The airport’s barebones international terminal opened in 1983 to lure international airlines to Hobart.
The terminal’s apron can handle one widebody and two narrowbody aircraft. But other than Air New Zealand, no international airlines came knocking. Air New Zealand axed its weekly flight from Christchurch in 1998. Since then, Hobart’s international terminal has largely been unused.
“It’s really exciting to be launching a new route alongside reopening our other Australian ports after a year of being predominantly a domestic airline,” says Air New Zealand’s Greg Foran.
After 23 years, Hobart Airport finally snags an international service
Air New Zealand’s re-emergence in Hobart has been a long time coming for the airport. The airport has spent much of the last 23 years chasing direct international connections to New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
In the last two years alone, Hobart Airport has pumped US$76 million into expanding the existing departures lounge and facilities and international processing capacity. In 2018, the Australian Government gave US$29 million towards extending Hobart’s runway to 2,737 meters (now completed). The Australian Government is also funding immigration and border services at Hobart Airport.
It has been a big effort to snag these twice-weekly flights. Whether it’s worth it is up in the air. However, Hobart Airport estimates the flights will contribute US$91 million in direct tourism benefits to Tasmania. And of course, there is the traffic heading in the other direction.
One of the reasons Hobart Airport has languished unloved by international airlines is that Melbourne is just a short one-hour flight away. While curtailed by the travel downturn, Melbourne Airport was previously booming. Airlines were happy to connect their Tasmanian passengers through Melbourne. A lot of passengers were also happy to connect using the superior facilities at Melbourne Airport.
When international travel resumes, Melbourne might see some of those connecting passengers choose to go through Auckland Airport, especially if they are bound for the Americas.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to watch the passenger loads on Air New Zealand’s new flights to Hobart and whether, this time, the route has the momentum and dollars to keep the airline on it.
What do you think? What’s the likelihood of success on this route? Post a comment and let us know.