It is one of the world’s more isolated islands but Norfolk Island is getting another air connection. Regional New Zealand airline, Air Chathams is starting a weekly service between Auckland and Norfolk Island from September 6, 2019. Routes Online is reporting that the service will be operated by a Convair 580.
The commencement of regular passenger services between New Zealand and Norfolk Island follows a series of successful charter trips to the island by Air Chathams. Norfolk Island Tourism and Norfolk Island Regional Council have also worked extensively to get the flights running.
In a statement, Air Chathams GM, Duane Emeny said;
“Air Chathams has made significant investments in anticipation of the success of the direct Auckland to Norfolk route, gaining required approvals from Australian Home Affairs, ANZA approvals from the NZ CAA and MOT licensing.
There are so many parallels between Norfolk Island and Chatham Islands, except perhaps the weather. And we are really excited to re-establish that direct link to Auckland.”
Who is Air Chathams?
Air Chathams operates a fleet of 15 turboprop aircraft from its home on the Chatham Islands. While a part of New Zealand, it is so far offshore it is in a separate timezone (45 minutes ahead). The Chatham Islands are about 800 kilometers east of New Zealand’s South Island.
The airline links the island with the Kiwi cities of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Oz Traveller notes that there are also flights from Auckland to North Island destinations and now to Norfolk Island.
Air Chathams’ fleet is mixed and rather interesting. They operate Saab 340s, Convair 580s, Fairchild Metroliners, and a single ATR 72, Douglas DC-3 and Cessna 206 respectively. The airline has been operating since 1984.
Norfolk Island is approximately 1,600 kilometers northeast of Sydney and 1,100 kilometers northwest of Auckland. While first settled by seafarers from the Kermadec Islands in the 14th and 15th centuries, Captain James Cook put it on the modern map when he “discovered” it in 1774 on his second South Pacific voyage.
When Australia was colonized by the British in 1788 and an outpost was soon established on Norfolk. The island was abundant with flax and tall straight trees (needed for shipbuilding). The island soon became a notorious penal outpost as well. When a convict had worn out his welcome in Sydney, he was shipped off to tougher conditions on Norfolk or Tasmania.
Since then, Norfolk Island has been a part of Australian and linked to its modern historical fabric. The island has always been devastatingly beautiful – contrasting with the cruelty experienced there. And it has always been isolated. With a small permanent population, ongoing sustainable air links to Australia have always been problematic.
Air services to Norfolk have always been problematic
Most recently, the local government on the island started up their own airline, Air Norfolk, in 2006, using one 737-300. It was operated by OzJet (another quirk in Australian aviation history) and then Our Airline. Air Norfolk folded in 2011.
Since then Air New Zealand has operated passenger flights from both Sydney and Brisbane over to Norfolk. Ironically, Air New Zealand doesn’t currently operate flights from New Zealand to Norfolk Island.
But Air Chathams is stepping into the breach. Norfolk Island has always had its perils – including for airlines. One can only wish Air Chathams the very best of luck.