A proposed regular flight service between the Mackenzie District and Christchurch has been criticised by a regional flights expert as a likely flop.

With recent growth of international and domestic tourism to Mackenzie, resulting in guest nights rising 12.2 per cent to 591,355 in 2015, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT) has launched a survey to gauge whether Mackenzie residents are interested in the return of a domestic service.

Tekapo and Pukaki airports are favoured as the lead contenders for any future services to be based out of.

Regular flights between Mt Cook and Rotorua ceased in 2002 and a month-long trial of a three times a week service from Mt Cook to Christchurch by Mt Cook Airline at the end of 2012 was largely unsuccessful.

CCT’s Mackenzie marketing executive Annabelle Bray said international visitors’ use of regional air services was fickle and locals would have to be the ones that airline companies could bank on to use it.

CCT was making the survey available for Mackenzie residents as well as sending it to the Christchurch residents that were known to have holiday homes in Mackenzie.

“We haven’t really talked about the logistics of how a new service might work but I would say Tekapo or Pukaki airports are probably the most realistic places to run it from today,” she said.

Kiwi Regional Airlines chief executive Ewan Wilson said the population base of the region was not big enough to sustain regional flights.

“Basically you need at least 20,000 people flying to a major city for it to work unless there is a large corporate base that would support it,” Wilson said.

“If you were flying over a stretch of water that might change but that’s not the case here.

“Tourism is important to Mackenzie but without all the data I see them as mostly passing through to get to Queenstown, Mt Cook, Wanaka rather than flying there as a destination.”

Pukaki Airport board chairman Derek Kirke said if Mackenzie residents wanted regional flights the board would do everything it could to support it.

“As we’ve seen in Wanaka recently it’s quite tough setting up commuter services out of small centres.

“But beyond the size of the airstrip required, and that will depend on what aircraft it’s decided will be used, there’s really no reason why we couldn’t accommodate it here.”