Coronavirus: Airways NZ considers withdrawing air traffic control services from some regional airports

The airports affected are Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill.
The airports affected are Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill. Photo credit: Getty Images

Airways NZ, the organisation that controls New Zealand's airspace, has announced it's reviewing the level of service provided at seven regional airports.

The airports affected include Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill.

Flight information services known as AFIS provided at Kapiti Coast Airport and Milford Sound Piopiotahi Aerodrome are also being reviewed. 

Airways says these airports have limited or no commercial flights operating due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and discussions have commenced with the airports, airlines and staff.

Airways plans to reduce its cost base by 30 percent, including 180 of its staff who are expected to be made redundant. 

Forecasts provided to the organisation indicate that the domestic flight network will only see up to a 60 percent recovery over the next two years.

The locations currently under review are those where air traffic had been low even before the outbreak, says Airways CEO Graeme Sumner. 

"It is simply not viable to continue the same level of service at locations where there are no passenger flights," he says. 

"It's an unfortunate and stark reality, but our focus now needs to be on supporting the long-term recovery of New Zealand's aviation industry by ensuring our services are affordable and match the reality of the aviation sector now and into the future."

Pilots flying into these airfields will instead use standard visual flight rules to stay separated from other aircraft before they reach an altitude covered by air traffic control radar.

Airways expects to commence a two-week consultation process with unions next week.

The organisation received around $70 million in financial support as part of the Government's aviation industry rescue package.

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