The airline industry is criticising plans to extend Wellington Airport’s runway, saying there are better ways to spend $300 million.
In a submission that went to the Wellington City Council last night, the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (Barnz) raises serious concerns about the claimed economic benefits, and fears airlines will be left to pick up the bill.
The board represents 20 airlines that fly into and around New Zealand, including Air New Zealand.
Airlines will of course pass on extra costs to travelers.
I’d love to be able to fly to countries outside Australia and the Pacific from Wellington. But not at any cost.
But Barnz says the methodology used to work out the supposed economic benefits is flawed. It commissioned a peer review which states that the economic impact assessment “overstates the benefits while overlooking costs”.
Many of the assumptions used are unsound, the report says. That includes the idea that people would wait 48 hours to catch a direct flight rather than adding a stopover in Auckland, and that tourists would want to land in Wellington, requiring a “figure of eight” to explore the country, rather than starting at one end and going down.
A fair point. However we may get some people wanting to do a shorter trip primarily in one island only.
Given the requirement for long-haul carriers to fill 80 per cent of their seats, it was unlikely one would be willing to come to Wellington, he said.
“We’re not aware of any airline expressing an interest in flying long-haul into Wellington . . . Our concern is that there’s a potentially huge cost either to the ratepayers or to the traveller.”
This is the key. Funding should only be considered if an airline is willing to pledge it would then fly to Wellington from the US or Asia. Spending $300 million on the basis of “Build it and hope they come” is not sensible.