All four airlines operate evening services for winter 2017

JQ219 arrives at the gate med

Australia's national carrier rounded out a quartet of airlines flying to Queenstown after dark from 1 July 2017.

All four airlines operating at Queenstown Airport - Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas - are now certified to fly after-dark services in and out of the resort.

Queenstown Airport Chief Executive Colin Keel said that it was major milestone for New Zealand aviation and tourism and an incredibly satisfying moment for all those who had been involved in the project.

“This is an exciting development for both our region and for us as an airport,” he said.  

"With Virgin Australia's first evening flight last week (23 June) and Qantas' last night (1 July), it means that all four of our airlines are now operating after-dark services into Queenstown.  It's a huge achievement and the culmination of more than four years of hard work and collaboration by all of the organisations involved who shared a vision and commitment to safety to make after-dark flights a reality. 

“We’re delighted that the airlines are providing our domestic and international passengers with more flexibility and connectivity across their networks and thank them for their continued support.

“These flights provide travellers with more choices to fly for work or leisure and allows them to make the most of their time here," he said.

Evening flights during the winter months also maximises the airport’s operating hours of 6am to 10pm and reduces peak-time pressure on the airport’s facilities and services which have been experiencing sustained growth in passenger and traffic volumes. 

Background

After-dark flights for Queenstown were first mooted in 2002 and revisited several times over the following years after Required Navigational Performance (RNP) technology was introduced.

In 2012 QAC formed a working group of technical and operational experts with experience of RNP (Required Navigation Performance) and Queenstown-specific flight operations to prepare a Foundation Safety Case.  The working group included representatives from QAC, Airways NZ, Air New Zealand, Jetstar, and Qantas and was facilitated by risk management experts Navigatus Consulting.  

The resulting Safety Case, approved by both New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority in 2014, required 67 infrastructure and operational enhancements, including:

  • Queenstown Airport widening its runway from 30m to 45m
  • Airways New Zealand installing a comprehensive aeronautical lighting package (including runway, taxiway and apron lights)
  • Airlines implementing a bespoke crew selection and training package
  • Employing the full capability of the existing RNP technology
  • Development of current on-board flight procedures to de-peak pilot workload at decision altitude.

QAC and Airways New Zealand completed the airport’s $19.65 million runway and lighting upgrade in April and the required regulatory inspections, approvals and test flights were completed by 15 May 2016. 

Air New Zealand landed the first domestic after-dark flight from Auckland on 23 May 2016, and Jetstar landed the first international from Melbourne on 24 June 2016.

The final stage of the airfield upgrade, a $750,000 project to groove the airport's runway, was completed in April 2017 and has provided more operational resilience by improving the surface friction for aircraft landing in wet weather. 

Virgin Australia and Qantas gained regulatory approval for after-dark flights into Queenstown in June 2017 and commenced services on 23 June and 1 July respectively.