Air New Zealand today signed an agreement with Bombardier Aerospace to acquire 17 new Dash 8 Q300 turbo-prop aircraft which will be operated by Air New Zealand Link carrier Air Nelson, replacing its current fleet of 17 Saab 340A aircraft.
Air New Zealand will purchase the 17 new 50 seat Q300 aircraft at a cost of approximately $350 million which will be funded via debt.
All aircraft will be maintained at the Air Nelson Engineering base in Nelson.
The delivery of the first new aircraft is expected in July 2005 with one joining the fleet every six weeks, completing the delivery process within two years.
Air New Zealand Managing Director and Chief Executive, Ralph Norris, says the new aircraft type will provide a welcome boost for the regions currently served by
Air New Zealand Link.
"The additional seating will allow us to provide an overall increase in passenger capacity to meet customer demand and less restricted payload on regional routes.
"In addition, the new technology of the Q300 will ensure increased operational efficiencies and offers us a robust long term solution for the Air Nelson fleet," said Mr Norris.
Air Nelson General Manager, John Hambleton, said he was delighted with the selection of the Q300 aircraft.
"Today is the culmination of a fleet review process, the final stages of which commenced some nine months ago, has involved the assessment of several aircraft types as potential options to replace our Saab fleet.
"The Saab 340A has been an excellent work horse but the fleet now has an average age of 17 years and is no longer the best travel experience for our customers.
"We firmly believe that the Q300 is the right choice due to its superior performance and additional passenger comforts – it is faster, quieter and has more room than the Saab and I am sure our customers will enjoy the difference," said Mr Hambleton.
The aircraft has 50 passenger seats each with a comfortable 31 - 32 inch seat pitch featuring New Zealand blue leather upholstery, and large overhead lockers on both sides of the cabin for stowage of carry on luggage.
The Q300 travels at a cruise speed of 285 knots (compared to 265 knots for the Saab 340A), has an active noise reduction system and an auxiliary power unit to enable air conditioning to be run while the aircraft is on the ground.
Air Nelson links the regional centres of Nelson, Napier, Palmerston North and New Plymouth, with one or more of the main city centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
The airline also operates some of the Air New Zealand Link services to and from Rotorua,Tauranga and Hamilton.
Since November 2002 following the introduction of domestic Express Class services, with significantly reduced airfares and simplified booking processes, more people are travelling more often around New Zealand.
Passenger growth across the country has been substantial and delivered significant benefits to the regions as revealed in a recent economic impact study undertaken by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.
As an example, the Institute's analysis of the impact of Air New Zealand's Express Class identifies that the upper South Island region, encompassing Nelson and Marlborough, has benefited to the tune of $21.1 million.
|Air Nelson Fact File|
|Current Fleet||17 Saab 340 aircraft – 33 seats|
|Total flights per week||1,004|
|Total passengers p.a||1.2 million|
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