Air Nelson Is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air New Zealand operating under the Air New Zealand brand. We are a turboprop aircraft operation that links New Zealand's regional ports to main centres
Destinations 16
Passengers 1.9 million per annum
Aircraft Type Bombardier Q300
Seats/aircraft Q300 50 seats
Fleet Size 23
Staff 517
Crew Bases 7
(Auckland, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch)
Flight Attendants 1 per aircraft
Maintenance Completed in-house

Route Map

Company Structure


1976 - Beginnings of the airline

The airline grew out of a flying school operation, which was started in 1976 by Robert Inglis and Nicki Smith, then later developed charter operations. Scheduled services followed with the first scheduled service in 1984 using a Piper Aztec aircraft between Motueka and Wellington. Over the next couple of years the network grew to include Nelson, Wellington and Palmerston North routes using additional Piper Chieftans under the name of Motueka Air.

1988 - Air Nelson formed

The name Air Nelson was adopted in 1988. There were significant changes to the industry at this time with aviation deregulation creating an over supply of operators. This led to a commercial contract between Eagle Airways and Air Nelson, which rationalised and fed each other's routes under a joint reservations system and interline agreement, creating a true regional operation.

In October 1988 Air New Zealand purchased 50% of Air Nelson to secure a regional feed into its domestic operation.

The first of the Metroliners was purchased to replace the Friendship aircraft and provide an increased frequency of service on the South Island routes operated by Air New Zealand.

After the total withdrawal of all Air New Zealand Friendship operations in 1990 Air Nelson grew rapidly. Further Metros and four Saab 340s were introduced to cover provincial routes and as a link to main centres.

1991 - Air New Zealand Link

The "Air New Zealand Link" brand name was introduced to compliment the Air New Zealand "National" brand as a domestic operation. Other regional operators, Eagle Air and Mount Cook Airline, were also brought in under the brand.

1995 - Wholly owned subsidiary of Air New Zealand

In 1995 Air New Zealand purchased Air Nelson outright. At this time Steve Wilks of Air Nelson was appointed to manage the operation. In 1996 the Saab fleet had increased to 13, and was also being utilised on some provincial routes previously serviced by the National Boeing 737 Jet.

Air Nelson, Eagle Air, Mount Cook and Air New Zealand National were all brought together under the umbrella of Domestic Airline Group to achieve a greater degree of seamlessness of service to customers.

During this period the decision was made that each of the Link carriers would specialise in a specific aircraft niche based on size and Air Nelson was identified as the option for the operation of 30 seat aircraft.

Eagle Air became designated as the 19 seat operator with the decision made to replace the aging fleet of Banderante and Metroliner aircraft with the Beech 1900D.

Air Nelson remained a wholly owned subsidiary and from 1997 Howard Jellie was appointed as Manager to realign the company to Air New Zealand philosophy and practices.

Customer work with Air Rarotonga started in 1997. At this time Air Nelson focussed on gaining external work in flight training and engineering for Saab operators offshore, including Air Rarotonga with whom we continue to have a good working relationship today.

2000 - Restructuring of the business / fleet replacement

John Hambleton transferred from Eagle Air to become the General Manager of Air Nelson in late 2000. The Metroliner operation was phased out as Eagle brought in the Beech and consequent upon this Air Nelson embarked on a programme to right size the business and at the same time developed an expansion plan based on productivity of fleet to improve business performance.

It was recognised that the Saab aircraft at 14 years average age had a limited future in the Air Nelson fleet.

The key objectives set were to achieve:

  • a one:one fleet replacement
  • new aircraft
  • 40 to 50 seat size

To achieve these objectives it was necessary to create a significant improvement in the business and at the same time Air Nelson was required to participate in Air New Zealand's Domestic Express product launch with an average 20% reduction in price across the domestic network.

By the end of 2003 Air Nelson had increased its fleet to 17 Saab aircraft and expanded the utilisation of its fleet by 20% to be the world leader in Saab utilisation. As a result of these and other efficiencies, the business improvement targets were realised and a business case lodged in mid-1994 to propose a replacement option.

2004 - New aircraft deal announced

In October 2004, Air New Zealand announced its Board of Directors had approved a fleet replacement deal for Air Nelson valued at $NZ350 million, with the signing of an agreement with Bombardier Aerospace to acquire 17 new Bombardier Q300 turbo-prop aircraft (with 50 seat capacity) replacing the current fleet of 17 Saab 340A aircraft (with 30 seat capacity).

2005 - Delivery of first new aircraft

The delivery of the first new Bombardier Q300 aircraft to Air Nelson arrived in Nelson on 28 July 2005 and went into service 15 August 2005. On average a new Bombardier joined the fleet every six weeks, completing the process within two years.

2006/2007 - Further aircraft growth

In August 2006 the major regional competitor ceased operations. This allowed the opportunity for further growth as it allowed the company to take additional risk in opening new markets.

A further 6 aircraft have been approved and ordered with 4 now in operation and the remaining 2 to be delivered in 2009.