Aviation pioneer isn't a phrase one hears very often these days with respect to recent aviation industry developments, but I would describe Ewan Wilson as one in the New Zealand context. In the mid-1990s with Kiwi Travel International Airlines (1995-1996) he established the first regular non-stop international services between Hamilton, Palmerston North, Dunedin and Australia. Serving on a point-to-point basis, in what was about to become in 1996 the Australia-New Zealand Single Aviation Market (SAM), Kiwi used leased aircraft from a number of international aircraft operators in what proved to be an ultimately undercapitalised venture when faced with competition from Air New Zealand's new no-frills subsidiary, Freedom Air (1996-2008).
In those days the global security environment was more benign and it was easier to establish border facilities at an airport for international flights, although the cost of processing passengers on a per-passenger basis compared with at New Zealand's three main international airports was very high.
The following graph illustrates the subsequent rise and fall on international passenger movements through Hamilton (HLZ), Palmerston North (PMR) and Dunedin airports (DUD), and the growing success of Queenstown (ZQN), which now has Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Pacific Blue and Qantas competing. The graph disguises the fact that HLZ temporarily lost its international services until Pacific Blue entered the market, while in the winter of 2009 for some weeks DUD only had one Air New Zealand international service per week. Rotorua (ROT) has only recently secure international services operated by Air New Zealand, while Invercargill (IVC) has for many years sought to attract international operations.
Again the data for the graph comes from Statistics NZ's excellent Infoshare.
The challenge for these provincial airports is that while they offer air passengers the convenience of non-stop point-to-point services, the frequency of international air services available is inevitably much greater at the three main airports and all these provincial airports enjoy good connecting domestic air links. In the case of HLZ there is the added challenge of competing with an improving road link between Hamilton and Auckland Airport.
Today Ewan Wilson is back in the travel industry operating escorted tours under the Grand Journey brand.