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In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about alcohol and flights, and some airlines have completely banned alcohol consumption on board.
However, a New Zealand wine company is taking things in a slightly different direction by launching the "world's first wine airline".
Invivo will start operating a route from Auckland's North Island to Queenstown in the South Island later this year, with its first flight taking off in the coming months.
New Zealanders Rob Cameron and Tim Lightbourne and their shareholder Sarah Jessica Parker
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Its co-founders, Tim Lightbourne and Robin Cameron, chartered a 34-seat Saab plane for Invivo Air's inaugural voyage, with the aim of showcasing "business class in every glass."
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Although the duration of the flight is around two hours, the full experience will last 24 hours, with a visit to Invivo's winegrowers in Central Otago and a stay at The Hilton Queenstown included.
"Obviously there will be some complimentary wine served on board, as well as some non-alcoholic beverages," says Lightbourne.
"There will be a range of Invivo wines available and Rob and I may serve them to guests on the flight. It will be a lot of fun."
Lightbourne and Cameron decided to launch Invivo Air to celebrate the reopening of Auckland's borders in December, as well as to promote domestic tourism in New Zealand.
They are also looking to support those working in Auckland's hospitality sector, which was hit hard during the 119-day lockdown that was imposed following an outbreak of covid-19 in the city.
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Half of the first flight tickets will be courtesy, with priority given to Auckland hospitality and tourism staff affected by the lockdown, as well as residents who have been unable to visit their loved ones in the South Island of New Zealand due to border closures.
"A lot of the restaurants have been closed in Auckland for all this time," explains Lightbourne.
"So it's been really tough. We'd like to reward some of them with a flight to Queenstown, which is one of our main tourist destinations."
Boosting national tourism
Invivo Air's inaugural voyage will be a 24-hour experience that includes a stay at the Hilton Queenstown hotel.
Credit: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
He also hopes the flights will give a boost to the popular city of Queenstown, which attracted some three million visitors a year before the pandemic, more than 60% of whom came from abroad.
However, the resort town, located in New Zealand's Otago region, "has had a tough time" due to a lack of international tourists, according to Lightbourne.
Not surprisingly, the team at Invivo found the process of creating an airline from scratch quite complicated, to say the least.
“We had to talk to some people in the industry about the goings-on, the challenges and all that sort of thing,” admits Lightbourne.
"It's a test for us. But the response has been positive. Thousands of people have signed up. We could have sold out the flight 100 times."
Although the initial flight is in fact a "test", Lightbourne says the team plans to fly regularly on the Auckland to Queenstown route, and hopes to add new destinations in the future.
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"We have vineyards in Marlborough, which is also the South Island," he adds.
"And in the North Island, we have some in the Hawke's Bay and Gisborne region. We'd love to do some flights in that direction later this year, hopefully."
Founded in 2008, Invivo produces wine from New Zealand, while working in collaboration with vintners around the world to make wine from major producing regions, including the Prosecco region of Veneto, Italy.
Invivo's winery is located in Te Kauwhata, located in the Waikato region, just south of Auckland.
New Zealanders Rob Cameron and Tim Lightbourne founded Invivo in 2008.
Invivo's various shareholders and collaborators include "And Just Like That..." star Sarah Jessica Parker and British TV presenter Graham Norton, and Lightbourne hints that we may see some of the stars on board a flight. from Invivo Air at some point.
"Both Graham and Sarah Jessica are really looking forward to going to New Zealand," he adds.
"So they could potentially be one of the official guests on a flight in the future, for sure."
New Zealand has been widely praised for its response to Covid-19, and cases have remained remarkably low due to its strict border restrictions and quarantine measures: just over 15,000 infections have been recorded in the destination to date.
However, the country has been effectively closed off from the rest of the world throughout the pandemic, aside from a brief quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia that came to a halt in July 2021.
Invivo co-founders Rob Cameron and Tim Lightbourne with shareholder Sarah Jessica Parker.
This has proven to be an incredible challenge for many, especially businesses that depend on international tourism, as well as those who have been separated from their families.
"Everyone knows it's for the greater good," Lightbourne says.
"But with that said, we really want to get back to normal and open the borders to international travel. It's been almost two years."
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Invivo Air passengers must comply with all applicable rules and regulations, including presentation of a valid vaccination pass prior to boarding.
Although 50% of the seats on the first flight will be available for purchase, seat prices have yet to be determined.
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