Airline Of The Week: New Zealand’s Originair

New Zealand’s Originair is expanding and adding new routes around the North Island in September. Overshadowed by bigger competitors Air New Zealand and Jetstar, Originair is one of the quiet achievers of New Zealand’s airline scene.

Originair is expanding and adding new routes in New Zealand’s North Island. Photo: Originair

Three new Originair routes in September

Based at Nelson Airport (NSN), Originair’s handful of turboprop planes have been running scheduled passenger services to smaller North Island cities since 2015. Originair presently flies between Nelson and Palmerston North (PMR), Hamilton (HLZ) and Palmerston North, Nelson and Hamilton, and Nelson and Wellington (WLG).

In mid-September, Originair is adding three new North Island regional routes. From September 17, Originair will fly between Nelson and Napier (NPE), Napier and Hamilton, and Palmerston North and Napier.

“Initially, we will service this schedule with a British Aerospace 19-seat Jetstream aircraft but we may increase the aircraft gauge to accommodate demand,” said Originair CEO Robert Inglis in a statement.

Originair began using its own British Aerospace Jetstream aircraft in 2019. They presently operate three of the type – ZK-JSH,  ZK-JSJ, and ZK -JSK.  All three are leased to Originair by an associated company.

An Originair Jetstream 31 at the terminal. Photo: Originair

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Originair’s founder brings extensive industry experience to the airline

Originair’s CEO is also the airline’s founder. Robert Inglis has over 40 years of experience in New Zealand’s airline industry. He started up Air Nelson in 1979. Air New Zealand bought a half stake in Air Nelson in 1988 and assumed full ownership in 1995.

Mr Inglis and partner Nicki Smith started up Origin Pacific Airways in 1996. Like Originair, Origin Pacific Airways was based in Nelson and used turboprop aircraft. In 2001, the airline did a deal with Qantas subsidiary Jetconnect to operate codeshare flights. These codeshare flights carried passengers to and from New Zealand’s major airports that Qantas serviced.

Just three years later, Jetconnect ended the deal, preferring to run its own feeder aircraft. The loss of traffic hit Origin Pacific Airways hard. They shed staff and costs. However, the airline went out of business in 2006.

Hamilton is a big beneficiary of Originair’s expanded flights. Photo: Originair

First Originair flights in 2015

Nine years later, Mr Inglis established Originair. The first flights in 2015 were flown by Air Freight NZ (although the aircraft flew in Originair livery). However, the following year, New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) restricted the operating certificate of Air Freight NZ, preventing them from operating Originair services.

In response, Originair contracted with Airwork NZ to operate its flights. Airwork operated the flights using two unmarked Metroliners. But that was a short-lived affair. In March 2016, the deal was over, and Originair found itself temporarily grounded.

Robert Inglis seemed relaxed about it, telling local media at the time there “was no great rush” to get back in the air. But within six months, Originair was flying again. This time they used air2there to operate the flights.

While this was happening, Originair was working on obtaining its own operating certificate. In 2019 the hard work paid off, with the CAA issuing a Part 125 Air Operator’s Certificate. That meant the end of contracted aircraft deals, and Originair could independently operate its own Jetstream planes.

The worldwide travel crunch soon tempered that high point. Demand for travel within New Zealand slumped, and tough local movement restrictions went into place.

But twelve months later, domestic passenger demand is recovering well in New Zealand. Originair only owns a small slice of the airline market in New Zealand. However, as the rollout of the new routes in September demonstrates, the airline is enjoying some uplift from the rebound in demand.