New Zealand wine lovers will have a direct route to Aussie vineyards for the next three years thanks to a deal to continue flights from Auckland to the NSW Hunter Valley.
Newcastle Airport and Virgin Australia announced the deal Tuesday after a successful trial last summer.
Virgin will operate three services a week during the peak holiday period from November 21 to February 16, 2020, with the potential to expand the services over subsequent years.
Newcastle Airport chief executive Peter Cock described the partnership as a sign of confidence in the region.
“On the back of the successes of last year, we are thrilled to provide some clarity and certainty around the longevity of these flights, which cement us as an international airport,’’ he said in a statement.
“The first season was a real success, delivering an estimated $A5.4 million in economic benefit into our region.
“Importantly, 38 percent of holiday travelers were visiting the Hunter for the first time, which indicates this direct service stimulated new demand.
“The service also provided thousands of locals with the opportunity to visit Auckland for the first time.
“In fact, 30 percent of Australian leisure travelers made their inaugural visit to the New Zealand city via this direct service.”
Last summer’s trial heralded a return to international travel for Newcastle Airport after a 16-year hiatus.
The transformation was kick-started with an $A11.1m grant from the NSW government that helped fund the expansion of the terminal to a 2600 square metre facility capable of accommodating customs, immigration and quarantine facilities.
The success of lengthy negotiations to secure an airline meant the facilities had to be fitted out and stakeholders such as the Australian Border Force, NSW Police and the Department of Agriculture brought together.
“With our international capability now confirmed, we’re strengthening the region’s reputation as a key destination for both domestic and international travels and a second international gateway into NSW,” Dr Cock said.