An artist’s impression of the new airline’s 737-800 planes featuring picture of Cook Islands lagoon. Supplied/20121316
Cook Islands businessman Mike Pero has renamed his new airline Pasifika Air but says serving Rarotonga remains his primary focus.
Mike Pero’s new airline is planning to launch direct flights from Wellington and Christchurch to the Cook Islands “as early as May” 2021.
Cook Islander Pero, who is a well-known New Zealand-based
businessman, unveiled Pasifika Air after quarantine free travel between the two
countries was announced last week.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown and his New Zealand
counterpart Jacinda Ardern on Friday agreed on an “Arrangement to Facilitate
Quarantine-Free Travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand” by the end of
Mike Pero said Pasifika Air, originally named Jet Raro,
would look at serving other Pacific destinations.
However, he said Rarotonga remained the primary focus for a
number of reasons.
“Obviously my heritage is one of the motivating factors but
realistically the Cook Islands is our (New Zealand’s) closest Island nations,
it’s a beautiful part of the world and so many Kiwis love the Cooks!” Pero told
Cook Islands News.
“I believe many Kiwis are conscious of the hard times Raro
and other islands are going through at present and would love to come and show
some support, and at the same time enjoy a little piece of paradise.
“We have an open mind with other islands. I’d like to think
we can provide service and links when or where opportunities arise. Rarotonga,
Cook Islands is our primary service.”
Pero said he had only brief email discussions to date with
the Cook Islands government regarding his airline and “(PM) Mark Brown has been
“We believe we can help restore the Cook Islands economy –
there’s only one way to achieve that and it’s to get tourists back on the
island. I believe that, on average, every tourist will bring in $2000.
“I believe the New Zealand market will be easier to nurture
than the northern hemisphere and could be more consistent, long term. The main
thing is that the Cooks gets the wheels turning again and regain lost ground
Liana Scott, the president of Cook Islands Tourism Industry
Council, says news of Mike Pero’s new airline venture is certainly welcomed by
“Pasifika Air will be traveling from ports not normally
directly travelled from, or at least have always been seasonally scheduled and
not year round. Direct routes are always appealing to travellers that want to
get to their destination in a hurry and with the least amount of disruption or
trouble,” Scott said.
“Indicative flight prices seem to be reasonable and I am
certain based on the current enquiries being experienced on an announcement of
a pending border opening in the first quarter of next year, interest will
surely be favourable.
“We wish Mike Pero all the best in his new project.”
Pasifika Air could gain Civil Aviation Authority approval to
operate as early as May using Virgin Australia aircraft that are now parked up
and some of the airline’s former crew who lost their jobs when the base in
Christchurch was closed in April, Pero told New Zealand Herald.
The airline would use the leased Boeing 737-800s to fly
between Wellington and Rarotonga and Christchurch and Rarotonga, so Pasifika
would avoid a head-to-head fight with Air New Zealand which flies out of
Auckland to the Cook Islands.
The flights would be three times a week from each centre.
Flight times will be just over 4 hours 30 minutes from
Christchurch and just over 4 hours from Wellington.
Pero said fares “would be price-competitive”.
In July, when an air bridge to the Cook Islands looked
imminent, Pero said one-way flights would cost between $299 and $499. Before
the Auckland Covid resurgence in August scuppered plans, he said he would be
using Airbus A320 planes.
Before Covid-19, Air New Zealand, Jetstar, and Virgin
Australia operated flights to the Cook Islands. Air New Zealand is certain to
restore some services when borders open, Jetstar advertised seats before the
August outbreak but Virgin Australia is focusing on its domestic operation.
Air New Zealand’s website lists flights starting on March 26
and six times a week during April and round trips start at around $850.