Air New Zealand today labelled Hamilton Airports proposed $5 domestic passenger levy as a rip off for travellers and a convenient way to balance the books. This is nothing more than a toll on passengers - the proposal is totally unjustified and simply a convenient way to fund expensive cosmetic changes to the Airport terminal, said Norm Thompson, Group General Manager, Short haul Airlines.
It appears that Hamilton is seeking to become part of a growing trend amongst New Zealand airports to use the travelling public to pay for development that is speculative and largely unnecessary to their travel. We are even seeing some regional airports determined to have jet capable runways when the likelihood of jet aircraft flying into the area is limited at best.
Air New Zealand is not against Airport development this is a matter for the local community to decide. However, todays passengers shouldnt have to pay for anything more than they need and certainly shouldnt be paying for any speculative investment by the owners of airports. As with any business, that activity must be funded by those seeking to speculate.
As the major supplier of air services to Hamilton and the Airports major customer, we strongly oppose a toll on our customers to pay for such grandiose and unnecessary development, particularly given Air New Zealands commitment to keeping domestic fares low, said Mr Thompson.
An extra $5 on a $70 airfare, in other words a 7% increase, is not insignificant and may well deter some families from travelling by air.
Mr Thompson said that Air New Zealand regularly receives complaints from customers about the departing passenger levy charged by Rotorua and Palmerston North Airports. The survey of Hamilton Airport customers is flawed and was undertaken after the terminal development started, not before, he said.
Air New Zealand has been in discussions with Waikato Regional Airport Limited during the last two years, during which time the airline has repeatedly stated its opposition to the terminal development and sought clarity from the WRAL Board over how the project would be funded and how the costs would be recovered.
Air New Zealand is also currently engaged in discussions with Auckland and Wellington Airports over proposed charges related to terminal development.