Queenstown airport to begin night-flights next winter


The Airline Pilots Association (APA) says it has reservations about night-time flights beginning at Queenstown Airport in winter next year.

The airport today announced a major upgrade that will allow flights into the tourist town well after dark.

"It's a great opportunity for Queenstown and for New Zealand," says acting chief executive of Queenstown Airport Mark Edghill. "It will mean that our travellers, our visitors, have far more choices when they come and how they connect."

Currently no planes can land or take off after dark in Queenstown. During winter, the busiest season for the area, the window for flights is substantially shorter.

But the $17 million upgrade, beginning this month, will see the runway widened by 15m and new lights installed.

The APA says it's still not enough to convince all pilots to fly into the challenging airport at night.

"The enhancements are welcome – they're a vast improvement," says David Reynolds of the APA. "But we do feel that we do need to have this extended safety area at the end and of course the procedures need to be safety compliant, which they currently aren't."

Mr Reynolds says some pilots have said they will not fly into Queenstown at night, but Airways New Zealand says all safety precautions are being taken.

"We don't see any foreseeable risk our prime objective is safety and that won't change," says Bruce Rosie of Airways NZ.

The first night-time flight is expected to arrive in Queenstown at the start of winter next year.

3 News