Kiwi Travel International Airlines was a New Zealand based airline which pioneered discount flights between secondary airports in Australia and New Zealand in the mid 1990s. The airline was established by Ewan Wilson and several associates. Ewan Wilson served as CEO and was later convicted on five counts of fraud. The Securities Commission went further and banned Wilson for a period of five years from holding a Directorship or Senior Management position. At the time the Commissioner took the unusual step of publicly announcing that Wilson acted without moral regard.
Following the issue of the necessary Government permits, Kiwi Travel International Airlines commenced scheduled flights between Hamilton and Sydney using a leased Boeing 727-200 on 23 August 1995. The 727 aircraft was operated on behalf of Kiwi by AvAtlantic of the United States who also held the Air Operator's Certificate on behalf of the airline. Flights were operated from the New Zealand cities of Hamilton and Dunedin. Due to the short runways at these airports the aircraft could only take on limited fuel due to weight restrictions and needed to land in Auckland and Christchurch respectively to take on more fuel before making the trans-Tasman crossing. The airline offered full economy services as well as no frills "Peanuts and Cola"-class fares.
Competition, route expansion and fleet changes
By the end of 1995, Air New Zealand had established Freedom Air via its subsidiary Mount Cook Airline and operated in direct competition with Kiwi, offering the same routes and a similar fare structure. In early 1996, Kiwi replaced its Boeing 727 with a leased Boeing 757 from the UK-based company Air 2000, later replaced by a Boeing 737. Freedom Air also operated a Boeing 737. Kiwi also added a second aircraft, an Airbus A320, and expanded its network to include Christchurch and the Australian city of Melbourne. By September 1996, trans-Tasman fares reached historic lows of $199 for return tickets between Melbourne/Christchurch and Melbourne/Hamilton.
Both Kiwi and Freedom operated with ad hoc liveries based on those of their lessors; Kiwi used a stylised Kiwi bird, while Freedom Air used a stylised sun.
Following intense competition with Freedom Air and a series of financial difficulties, Kiwi Travel International Airlines went into voluntary liquidation on 9 September 1996. Passengers on both sides of the Tasman Sea were stranded. In Brisbane, the company's Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 were taken by Airservices Australia in lieu of unpaid aviation fees. They were eventually returned to their owners.
Freedom Air ceased operations in March 2008, with its routes being taken over by its parent company, Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand stopped all international flights out of Hamilton and Palmerston North as of mid April 2009. Flights from Dunedin have been reduced to a seasonal basis.