Queenstown night flights allow long weekends for visitors

Queenstown night flights allow long weekends for visitors

Night flights in and out of Queenstown are a step closer to take-off after the first tests of the airport's new runway lights.

Airlines are aiming to begin evening flights into the adventure capital this winter, and it will have benefits for business and holiday travellers.

"So currently we get a lot of people coming in between about 2 and 4 in the afternoon in the winter. They'll be able to come in when they want to come in, later into the evening or early in the morning," says Queenstown Airport acting chief executive Mark Edghill.

Last night the airport's new runway lights were tested for the first time, with a helicopter flying the approach and departure flight paths.

Up until now planes can only take off and land during daylight hours.

That window will soon be extended to 10pm.

"That allows flights from especially across the Tasman to land in the evening on a Friday, people to go skiing over the weekend and return late on a Sunday, which is a fabulous weekend out for our Australian friends," says Airways New Zealand chief operating officer Pauline Lamb.

The airport's had a $20 million upgrade, including widening the runway and the addition of 200 approach lights.

Travellers on business can see the big benefits.

"I own a business, so it'd be quite good to be able to come in and out and do stuff down here," says Jason Hall.

"[It] makes a huge difference, especially in winter when there's limited daylight hours," says Eden Bracketstone.

Advanced navigation procedures will enable pilots to negotiate the tricky mountain terrain using satellite technology no matter what the weather

"The ability to land in poor weather is exactly what this system is about," says Ms Lamb.

There'll be more tests before regulators give final approval.

Jetstar's hoping to make the first evening flight into Queenstown in late June, with Air New Zealand a week later.