Business travellers in regional New Zealand can look forward to a smoother ride as Air New Zealand beefs up its regional Air New Zealand Link fleet with new ATR 72-600 turboprop aircraft.
The Kiwi flag-carrier has placed an initial order of seven ATR 72-600s with an option to buy five more planes.
Seating 68 passengers in a 2-2 all-economy configuration, that means an extra 18 seats per flight over the older Bombardier Q300s which Air NZ is currently using.
Passengers can expect a marked increase in seat comfort and personal space aboard the new turboprop planes, with larger overhead bins to accommodate carry-on bags.
For business-heavy flights to rural hub areas for the mining, agricultural and wine sectors, those extra seats may make the difference between getting a seat on a 40-minute flight or being stuck with a four-hour drive.
"It is likely that the new fleet will be Auckland-based, providing us with an excellent spread of regional aircraft including bases in Christchurch, Nelson and Hamilton," Air NZ's Group General Manager for Australasia, Bruce Parton, said today.
"This will give us a solid platform for regional growth particularly into and out of Auckland," Parton continued, also suggesting that
At New Zealand cities like Wellington, Queenstown and Rotorua, where flights are often cancelled because of weather, the new ATRs will also have updated RNP (Required Navigation Performance), meaning they can land safely in weather that older turboprops couldn't handle.
Virgin Australia picked ATR 72-500 planes (without the improvements of the -600 series, which made its debut in July 2011) for its regional Queensland and Western Australia services.
Take a look at the interiors of Virgin Australia's new ATR 72s to see what you might expect across the Tasman.
And don't forget, Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders (as well as Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers) have access to Air New Zealand's domestic lounges when flying on the Kiwi carrier within NZ.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.