As a keen 10-year-old, I went with my parents to the opening of the Tauranga Airport terminal in 1967, when NAC, the National Airways Corporation, started its services to a dusty little airport in Aerodrome Road.
Today, 53 years later, I am retiring from my role as Air New Zealand Manager for Tauranga as a new terminal building opens. The incredible growth of Tauranga and of the importance of air travel to our community over that time could not have been imagined back then.
Likewise, when I started a short-term job in the NAC Freight Department in Anglesea Street, Hamilton, in January 1977, I could not have foreseen how my career in this industry would develop.
Just a year after I joined NAC, the company was amalgamated with Air New Zealand. Since then I have been employed by Terminal Services, Mount Cook airlines, Eagle Airways and Air New Zealand. Along with the changing subsidiary companies I came under, I have seen a big change in the aircraft we serviced. During the 28 years I spent at Hamilton Airport, we had a regular Fokker Friendship F27 service and an overnight Boeing 737 service. There were regular visits from Safe Air freighter aircraft the Bristol Freighter and Argosy.
In 1994, Kiwi Air started, and I worked on the first ‘peanuts and cola’ flights to Australia. Soon after, in 1995, Air New Zealand started operating Freedom Air and this grew to 15 flights a week out of Hamilton to Australia and Fiji alone.
The changes brought about by rapidly developing computer technology have transformed travel planning for travellers. One of my earliest jobs in the travel office was hand-writing hundreds of passenger tickets. There was one price per destination and up to eight carbon copies to file. Hanging on to that precious ticket was vital and we would see panicked passengers who found they had forgotten to pack their ticket. Nowadays, the smartphone in your pocket can take care of everything.
I was widowed in 2000, so when the opportunity came for me and my two young sons to return home to Tauranga as airport manager for Eagle Air, I didn’t hesitate. The incredible growth of Tauranga over the 14 years I have been here has been both challenging and exciting. Passenger numbers have grown from under 100,000 per year to around half a million this year so the number of flights and the staff required have continued to grow faster than any other regional airport.
I am retiring now after more than 42 years in the airline industry. I will miss the friendships which have developed with the job; with my staff, my fellow managers and with the many regular passengers I’ve got to know well. However, retiring in Tauranga, as many thousands of people know, has a silver lining. I am very lucky to call this my home town and to enjoy my life here with family and friends.
-By Bill Reeves, Airport Manager Tauranga, Air New Zealand (Retired)