Martin De Ruyter/Stuff
An Originair Jetstream aircraft at Nelson Airport during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Nelson airline Originair is confident its operations will be able to return to normal after the turbulence of the coronavirus lockdown.
Following the rise to Alert Level 4 on March 25, the airline’s regular passenger schedule has been suspended.
However, chief executive Robert Inglis said the airline’s British Aerospace Jetstream aircraft had still been able to operate charter flights on a fairly regular basis.
Inglis said the charters were primarily carrying essential workers who had been cleared to fly for essential service requirements, with the 18-seat Jetstream aircraft “proving to be very suitable” for carrying bubble-sized groups.
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He said while it had been a difficult time, the company had managed to retain all of its staff (equivalent to about 14 full-time jobs) throughout the lockdown, with the help of the Government wage subsidy.
“We have been fortunate to have the Government wage subsidy. We’re not a large operator, and we’ve had alternate business that we’ve been able to carry out to support the operation.”
They have not been eligible for any other Government support however, with $600m aviation support package targeted primarily towards freight services.
Inglis said while it was still unclear when regular flights would resume, the airline intended to restart regular scheduled services between Nelson and Wellington and Nelson and Palmerston North.
“We really can’t do anything until the Government makes its announcements next week, in terms of when travel can recommence.
“Once we’re clear about that we’ll make a decision about the commencement date for our scheduled services.”
The Nelson-Wellington route only started up in February, as a response to passenger demand.
Prior to the entry of Jetstar into the market, OriginAir had also offered flights to New Plymouth and Napier.
Inglis said while there may initially be weaker demand for flights during the winter period, he was confident about the future of the airline.
“The current circumstances have been challenging for a lot of business, we’ve just been fortunate to be small.
“We want to play the long game and be here to offer Nelson travellers some choices.”