Origin’s ready for take off

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Tomorrow Originair will take to the skies but for owner Robert Inglis the thrill won’t be seeing an Origin plane takeoff – after all it’s hardly his first, maiden flight.

Originair is the latest airline under Robert’s ownership and he says months of hard work and preparation have been the exciting part for him, with this week’s first flight “just another step”.

Despite his long association with aeroplanes, Robert says his first taste of flying wasn’t pleasant. “I was waiting about three days for my first born to turn up at the hospital in Motueka and I was getting a bit anxious. My father-in-law said he was learning to fly and he said ‘come to the aero club and we’ll take you for a flight to take your mind of it’. I didn’t like it much but a month or two later I went back and did some more flying. I got a private licence, then a commercial licence.”

From there, Robert operated a fleet of planes in conjunction with the Nelson Aviation College and then started flying from Motueka to Wellington before deregulation opened up competition to Air New Zealand for domestic air travel. He then started Air Nelson before selling it to Air New Zealand and later founded Origin Pacific.

Robert says he has nothing to hide with that airline’s collapse, one reason why he chose to call his new airline Originair. “If we called it anything else it could be seen that we were trying to hide and we don’t think we’ve got anything to hide about,” he says. “We just got caught in some aero-politics that became the perfect storm and out of our control.”

Origin Pacific hit trouble when Qantas pulled out of a deal to work together in the hope of buying a large share of Air New Zealand. That left Origin with leased planes that it couldn’t fill and contracts that it couldn’t break, meaning it had to fold. The Commerce Commission later ruled that Qantas couldn’t buy a stake in Air NZ.

But with that behind him, Robert has assembled a new team and refurbished planes to fly again.

This week’s first flight will take passengers from Nelson to Palmerston North, a route Robert knows well. “People ask ‘why Palmerston’. Well, the Palmerston North route has the classic key requirements for an airline. There is a water barrier and it is a short sector, no terrain in the way, so it’s usually a nice, smooth flight.”

He says it’s a route that has been successful for him at Air Nelson and Origin Pacific, as has the Nelson to Wellington route that will start next month. “We’re not serious about an attack on Air New Zealand on the Wellington route. It doesn’t cost us anymore for the crew to do four trips or two, so it works in nicely to do that extra service to Wellington.”

Although Originair is nowhere near the size of what Origin Pacific was, Robert says it means they will be stable. “It’s hardly a big deal, it’s a very modest operation and we’re not exposed to the international markets.”

Ticketing information and schedules are at www.originair.nz