New Zealand’s Queenstown Airport has received its first commercial evening flight.

Travelling from Auckland, the Air New Zealand flight NZ613 landed at Queenstown, while another NZ616 aircraft departed from the airport.

Airways New Zealand chief controller Clayton Lightfoot said: "’Cleared to land’ is an instruction I’ve issued thousands of times but after years of hard work to get us here, implementing new procedures and bringing in the latest technology, there was definitely something special about giving clearance for this landing and welcoming them into Queenstown tonight."

The launch of after-dark flights will help optimise the airport’s current operating hours of 6am to 10pm, thereby facilitating enhanced traveller flexibility as well as connectivity across different airline networks.

"This is an exciting development for both the Queenstown region and for us as an airport."

It will also help reduce peak-time pressure at Queenstown Airport.

Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) acting chief executive Mark Edghill said: "This is an exciting development for both the Queenstown region and for us as an airport.

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"It’s a proud moment for all of the organisations involved who have worked together over the past four years with a shared vision and commitment to safety to make after-dark flights a reality."

Evening flights for Queenstown were first considered in 2002, and revisited a number of times later after required navigational performance (RNP) technology was introduced.

In April, QAC and Airways New Zealand completed the airport’s $19.65m runway and lighting modernisation programme.

Approvals, regulatory inspections and test flights for the programme were completed by 15 May.

Image: The launch of after-dark flights will help reduce peak-time pressure at Queenstown Airport. Photo: courtesy of Queenstown Airport.