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Traveling To The Regions: A Look At New Zealand's Busiest Regional Airports


  • New Zealand has a bustling domestic, regional network of airports connecting the country’s population.
  • Air New Zealand is the largest domestic airline, but emerging carriers are also expanding the aviation scene.
  • Besides the main international gateways, there are 23 more established airports with regular commercial service in New Zealand.

While many travelers to New Zealand will be familiar with its main international gateways, like Auckland, Christchurch, or Queenstown, some may be unaware of the bustling domestic, regional network that connects the rest of the New Zealand population. With a country spanning around 1,000 miles (1,600 km), we will dive into the regional airports that make New Zealand tick.

Air New Zealand, the flag carrier and by far the largest domestic airline in New Zealand, covers from Kerikeri (KKE), in the Bay of Islands, to Invercargill (IVC) in the south. However, throw in the likes of Jetstar (JQ) and other emerging carriers, such as Sounds Air, with its ever-expanding network of routes across the Cook Strait, or Air Chathams, which connects the Chatham Islands alongside some abandoned Air NZ routes, and you realize the aviation scene in New Zealand is picking up pace.

Sounds Air airplane

Photo: Buller District Council

Otago holding 4th & 5th place

After excluding the obvious choices, such as Auckland (AKL), Christchurch (CHC), and Wellington (WLG), the nation still has 23 more established airports with regular commercial service. Queenstown International Airport (ZQN) is the gateway to the Central Otago region, famed for great wine, skiing, and snowboarding, among other fantastic adventure sports; it firmly places Queenstown as number four on the busiest airports in New Zealand.

Another airport in Otago is Dunedin, the ‘Edinburgh of the South’ and one of New Zealand’s most significant cities; the airport doesn’t hold any international services since Virgin Australia pulled the pin on many trans-Tasman operations. However, the airport maintains jet services provided by Air New Zealand and Jetstar, direct to Auckland and Wellington, alongside turbo-prop operations to Christchurch, placing Dunedin (DUD) in number five.

The remainder of the top ten

Stepping away from airports that retain regular jet services, we get deeper into the regions; Nelson Airport (NSN), located at the top of the South Island has achieved the busiest airport without any scheduled jet services. Air New Zealand, Sounds Air, Originair, and Golden Bay Air maintain regular services, with the most popular to Wellington seeing three carriers on the route. In 2022, the airport saw more than 600,00 annual passengers for the airport to achieve 6th place.

The remaining four are all located on the North Island and next we head east to the Hawkes Bay Airport (NPE) at 7th place, which had 394,000 visitors in 2022. The airport has regular services between Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch with Air New Zealand, with Air Napier and Sunair offering other regional connections. Originair and Sounds Air once maintained services, but these have since ceased.

Tauranga Airport (TRG) is next with eighth place, and Palmerston North (PMR) for number nine, which both maintain robust domestic operations, with the majority of services heading to the three major centers of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Hamilton (HLZ) rounds off the top ten.

Sources: Transport.Govt.Nz, Dunedin Airport, Nelson Airport, Hawkes Bay Airport,

  • Air New Zealand, Boeing 787, Paint issue

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    Air New Zealand

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Auckland Airport, Christchurch Airport, Wellington Airport

    Year Founded:

    Star Alliance

    Greg Foran

    New Zealand


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