I suspect it's more to do with
Combination of both.
I would hazard a guess that is a decent part of the story - I would be surprised if the ATR’s operating cost exceeded the Convair’s, so it is a good way to offer the extra seats needed for the peaks of business travel, using an aircraft that would otherwise be mostly idle.
Looking at the different customer segments in the NZ market (https://p-airnz.com/cms/assets/PDFs/air ... tation.pdf
) page 44. - Inbound Tourism
relies on international connectivity unless you're somehow familiar with 3C and/or have a need to go to WAG (family). This would be a very very small selection- Domestic Tourism
, a slightly larger group but still a reasonably small pool of people predominantly visiting friends/family. - Business Travel
, the backbone of the sector. This segment traditional demands and relies on frequency. Is 3C playing with capacity (economics) over frequency? For example, if I need to go to WAG next Friday, my last flight home is 1645. If I miss that I'm stuffed and It's right on the back end of the business day, if I use PMR, I have 1700, 1845, 2040. It's not just flexibility, it's also contingency for weather and mechanical issues.
Looking at Air Chathams’ timings, it would appear the flights are timed well for business travel from the regions to Auckland, with early morning departures having passengers in Auckland by 8am, and departures going out after 6pm, coupled with middle of the day services allowing half day (or 1 and a half day and so on) trips.
I wonder how much the move to the new TTI reservations system they did a couple of months back will allow them to gain a greater presence for inbound flights? Be interesting to watch this space.
One segment you haven’t mentioned which seems to be reasonable (if you watch the number of people queuing up for Air Chathams holding duty free bags) is domestic-international connections.
On topic, I can’t see them replacing all the Saab services with the ATR, but I would be very surprised if they didn’t continue to find ways to use it on the busier times to boost capacity. That would also free up a Saab to operate to another port on peak times (perhaps one where a runway end safety area is currently progressing...)
As I said before, it will be interesting to see what happens when the charter work resumes in September.