Air N.Z. Objects to Auckland Airport Plan to Buy Queenstown Airfield Stake

Air New Zealand Ltd. said Auckland International Airport Ltd.’s proposal to buy a stake in Queenstown’s airport may push up fares, and it says a group of airlines would be a better investor.

Air New Zealand would be willing to lead a consortium to take a cornerstone stake, the Auckland-based carrier said in an e-mailed statement. Alternatively, it would be prepared to consider proposals to underwrite the development of the airfield at the South Island resort town so the community retains full ownership, it said.

Auckland Airport, the nation’s busiest, said on July 8 it agreed to invest NZ$27.7 million ($20 million) in Queenstown in exchange for a 25 percent stake, with the option of raising its holding to 35 percent in the future. In cooperation with majority shareholder, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, the funds would be used to increase capacity to meet rising passenger volumes, it said.

Auckland Airport “is an expert at squeezing every last penny from the travelling public,” Bruce Patton, Air New Zealand group general manager for Australasia said in the statement. “It would be naive to think it’s not aiming to increase airline and airport charges which will ultimately increase the cost of travel into and out of Queenstown.”

The companies have been in dispute about landing charges at Auckland airport, the nation’s busiest.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net.

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