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“Exciting & Amazing Tour”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of Glenorchy Air

Glenorchy Air
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$279.17*
and up
Milford Sound and Glaciers Helicopter Tour from Queenstown
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Operating out of Queenstown airport and flying across the Southern alps on one of the most spectacular short scenic flights in the world, Glenorchy Air is a family business owned and operated by Janet and Robert Rutherford. We operate daily fixed wing flights in which everyone has window seat for unimpeded views.These include fly-cruise-fly, overflight, helicopter and coach options into and out of Milford Sound and have been doing so for 20 years. Glenorchy Air run regular flights to the Mount Cook region, to Mount Aspiring, Queenstown's local glaciers, Stewart Island, Otago's East Coast and to Fiordlands Doubtful Sound. As we worked on the "Lord of the Rings" movies we have a unique insight into movie locations with various flightseeing options and personalised tours on offer.
Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
10 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Exciting & Amazing Tour”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 29, 2013

My husband and I did the fly-cruise-fly trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound last Wednesday. It was amazing! The weather was perfect that day so we had a smooth flight into Milford Sound. Our pilot couldn't have been more helpful and made a great tour guide as we fly over snow covered mountain ranges and glaciers. The cruise through Milford Sound was fantastic and our pilot was there to meet us as we disembarked from the cruise to fly us back to Queenstown. We were even presented with a DVD of our flight when we got back to the airport. I would highly recommend this company for any of their tours. It was the highlight of our holiday in New Zealand! Thank you very much.

Visited October 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank 193Christine
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glenorchy, Front Office Manager at Glenorchy Air, responded to this review, November 2, 2013
Thank you for your kind review. We are so pleased you had such a great experience. It is always nice to hear that we have been the highlight of someones holiday. Thanks again for your review and for choosing to fly with Glenorchy Air.
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Sarasota, Florida
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“A Truly great experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 27, 2013

Sorry to hear about the experience of the last reviewer but ours couldn't have been any better. We also were on the 'fly-kayak-fly' experience with Rosco's and Ray was our pilot. We were also told to call the morning of the trip which I truly did not find unusual at all. When I called we were informed that the weather may deteriorate & there was a possibility that we would have to take the 4.5 hr. bus ride out if it did. After some discussion we decided to go anyway & I am so glad we did! The trip in was absolutely beautiful & Ray provided commentary the entire way, pointing out various sights. Once we landed in Milford, the weather did get worse & he had to fly out immediately but not before arranging our ride out on one of the bus tours & getting it settled with the Rosco's guide. Our kayaking experience was excellent with the weather ranging from cloud, rain, fog & finally, sun!! Our guide, Horey, did a wonderful job of making sure we got off the water a little early so we could catch the bus back. However, once we made contact with the driver he explained to us that, because the weather had improved, Ray was coming back to get us! We had another stellar flight out, this time with 5 other passengers & once again were treated to great commentary with second overpasses of the Sound & waterfalls so we could take photos from both sides of the plane. This day was one of the highlights of our trip & I would not hesitate to fly with Ray again.

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank leah410
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glenorchy, Front Office Manager at Glenorchy Air, responded to this review, November 2, 2013
Thank you for sharing your experience. The weather can be very unpredictable and as you mentioned on this particular occasion we had all four seasons in one day! We were so pleased that we were able to get back into Milford in order to fly you back to Queenstown. Thanks again for your review and for choosing to fly with Glenorchy Air.
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Glasgow, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Fantastic day from beginning to end...”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 24, 2013

I booked the "fly-cruise-coach" trip for my girlfriend and I because I really wanted to visit Milford Sound but didn't fancy the 4.5 hour coach trip from Queenstown BOTH directions!

Though we both enjoyed the scenic cruise up and down the Sound, it was the flight that really represented the high point of the day (no pun intended!). We met with our fellow passengers and our pilot Ray at Queenstown airport, completed the necessary formalities including safety briefing, and were airborne soon after. The views during the flight were breathtaking! New Zealand South Island really is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited (and I consider myself to be something of a seasoned traveller). Rays commentary throughout the flight demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the area and was pretty much non-stop, interrupted only by flight related tasks such as talking on the radio. Having completed a few flying lessons myself I have some appreciation of the skills required to be a pilot, and with Ray I certainly felt we were in the capable hands of an experienced pilot.

After arriving in Milford Sound, Ray escorted us to the harbour and made sure we knew where we had to go to get on our cruise. He also made the arrangements for our return journey to Queenstown clear. We were told we could pay a little extra and fly back to Queenstown after the cruise- an opportunity I pounced on having enjoyed the flight there so much! If you look at the cost to time-in-the-air ratio compared to other scenic flight operators in the area, the Glenorchy Air flights represent very good value for money.

My girlfriend and I really enjoyed the cruise and the flights, but it was Ray's knowledge and attention to detail and taking a personal interest in making sure everything ran smoothly for us that made it a truly unforgettable experience! Thank you so much Ray!

Visited October 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Keith L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glenorchy, Front Office Manager at Glenorchy Air, responded to this review, October 28, 2013
Thank you for your kind review, we are so pleased that you had such a wonderful experience. It has been said that the flight to Milford sound is one of the world's greatest. As you mentioned our flights to Milford Sound are unique as we are the only Queenstown operator to include a flight over the glaciers. Thanks again for your review and for choosing to fly with Glenorchy Air.
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San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
33 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“Abysmal customer service; please stay away”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 10, 2013

We used Glenorchy Air in conjunction with a Milford Sound kayak excursion - so we did not choose the operator, but Glenorchy Air was just the operator that the kayak operator had chosen to partner with.

Now, there are tons of operators in Queenstown - for flights, helicopters, everything. If everything goes according to plan, there's no reason for anyone to have anything bad to say about any of these operators for the most part I would think. And I am sure that is what the vast majority of positive reviewers here experienced. Indeed, we ourselves on the first leg of our flight to milford on Glenorchy was fine, and we got some pretty good views of the mountains going there. But, when things do not go according to plan, one really can measure the true quality of a business. And things did not go according to plan on our excursion, and we can definitively say, the quality of this business is beyond poor. Here is what happened to us:

We (and another couple from the UK actually) had signed up for a "fly-kayak-fly" excursion to Milford Sound. It is Spring, and the weather can be unpredictable. So, we were told that if the weather was bad the day of, we would not be able to go (because the fixed wing planes are flown visually so are very weather dependent), and we would be refunded. This is fine.

Now, we were told by the kayak operator that the day before, we should call the flight operator to confirm the flight. We did so (or we had the concierge at our hotel help us to do so), and we were told that we actually had to call back the next morning to check again. OK - in theory that is fine and makes sense to us - if the weather is that unpredictable. We asked if they could call us instead. "No" - they said, they don't make it a policy of calling their customers to let them know if the show is a go or no go.... Ok - warning sign #1 (even our concierge told us that all the other flight operators like Air Milford will always call their customers and not flip the onus...it just kind of makes sense?).

Morning of - Glenorchy Air actually calls us (surprisingly) - and says the show is on, AND that they are calling us ONLY because it happened to be daylight savings that night and so just wanted to call us to make sure we were aware, because they actually don't usually call their customers. The weather in the morning looked fine - it was partly sunny / cloudy, and it was drizzling as we were leaving the hotel. The rep from Glenorchy was affable and friendly and said the weather was perfect for flying. We picked up the other couple from the hotel and got to the airport where we met the pilot. We went through safety briefing and took off - again everyone kept saying weather was perfect for flying, what a nice day, etc. No mention of: possibility weather could go south, what would happen if it did, etc. (there is no mention of this on the excursion website either or the confirmation we received for the excursion that we used for the voucher). The rep even showed us a picture of Milford on his computer and said how beautiful it looked.

On the way to Milford, the pilot was noticeably silent. I had read online in reviews that part of the fun was that the pilot often told passengers about the sound and pointed out various features of the landscape - which was beautiful. But, he was silent - we were apparently traveling with a lot of other planes, and (as became apparent after we landed) because of the glut of cloud cover, there was only one way to go so he was just mindful of the other planes. Fine. But this was warning sign #2 - if the weather was so nice everywhere today - what's with the clouds?

Flight was fine - we landed at Milford. Weather was cloudy and cold. We got picked up by the kayak operator, but oddly, don't recall the pilot ever telling us what to do or where to go when we were done. I think we all just assumed that there was some sort of actual cooperation between the partners but as became apparent after the kayaking was over, there wasn't, and we didn't know where we were supposed to go - when the pilot was going to leave again or where we were supposed to meet him.

So we went kayaking, weather steadily got more rainy and cloudy, and 3 hours later, it had changed dramatically. The kayak operator took us by the airport, and then took us to some cafe, where the pilots tend to hang out apparently. We didn't know what to do so we asked the cafe hostess to call the airport for us to see if the pilot was at the airport. No definitive answer.

After about 15 minutes of sitting around, the rep rushes in and tells us to grab our stuff and go with him asap. Then all that followed was a cryptic message about how our pilot will explain what's happening after we get on the coach and that he would be on the coach with us.... Then we had to walk down the high way to look for him and to wait for some coach to come by and pick us up. We had to split up too because he didn't know where the pilot was actually and so I walked myself to the airport to find him waiting there. We eventually flagged down the 'right' coach and got on with the pilot, where he explained that because of the changing weather, there was no way that we could fly back and so we were all going to take the 4.5 hour bus back to town (as opposed to the 45 min scenic flight). After that sunk in, the other couple asked the pilot about refunds, and the pilot told us we could call the office the next day to arrange for the refund.

OK - so at this point, we are resigned to what was happening. Even though we did not get the benefit of our bargain, we were thankful that we were not stranded in Milford or that we had flown and crashed into a mountain. We would be about 4 hours later than what we had planned and a million times more tired, but it is what it is. And, at the end of the day, it sounded like we would be able to get back whatever difference in cost it would be between the flight and coach, which we were fine with. We slept.

Now, approaching Queenstown, the bus actually dropped the pilot off at his house. We weren't really told where we were going or what would happen actually. If we had flown, they would have driven us back to our hotel as the package included door to door service. The other couple wisely went to the bus driver to ask if he knew where to go, and he did say that he would be dropping us off and that the pilot or rep or whoever had told him about our arrangement. That was all fine and good until we saw him speed by our hotel. I rushed to the front of the bus to find out that no one had told him where we were staying (just the other couple), so he said he could pull over little ways ahead, where we proceeded to get off, and walk back about 1 km in the rain and wind to our hotel. Superb door-to-door service.

So, the next day, we asked our concierge to help contact the operators about the promised refund, and here's where things get really hairy. They contacted the kayak operator who said that they would have to speak directly with the flight operator. That makes sense to me, and they did so, but the flight operator said they would not be refunding anything because it was weather related. That was their policy. Tough luck.

Okay, so I understand that, as with commercial flights, weather is not under anyone's control, and airlines often do have discretion and rearranging things due to weather. A policy like this did not entirely surprise me, but I had a few principled issues with their refusal to really talk to us and explain the policy and in this case give some sort of exception - or at the least, an explanation. I called them personally then and explained my thinking:

- the 'policy' was never explained to us. it wasn't on anyone's website. it wasn't in the confirmation we received. it was never mentioned at all before or on the day of the flight. the only thing that WAS mentioned was that if the weather was bad before the first flight, the whole thing was cancelled and we WOULD get a full refund. (Logic would probably dictate now to a reasonable person that if weather caused a cancellation or change in the rest of the excursion, a similar discount or fare adjustment would apply - one could argue.) And, even on the kayak operator's website, there is a mention that if weather affects certain parts of the kayak excursion, a suitable replacement activity will be found, but if that doesn't happen, a refund / discount would be applicable.

- As noted above, there was never any mention of anything but good weather. The day of the flight everything was 'perfect'. And yet, every minute AFTER the weather changed, all we heard was 'the weather is so unpredictable in spring'. It just seemed like they pulled whatever stock line suited their business goals at the time. Indeed, even after we flew there when the pilot himself noted that the clouds had limited flights to a single route - there was no mention of "well, you guys should know that if the weather gets worse, we may not be able to fly back so you'll have to take a coach, and that if it looks bad you may want to come back from the kayak early."

- they did apparently try to contact us while we were on the water to tell us that the weather was changing and we had to go or be stuck. of course they can't reach us on the water so it was too late. I single forewarning before we left would have been good - at least we would have been on notice. but none of that happened.

- Given that we were not able to fly back but instead had to take the coach, one would expect that we would at least be entitled to the difference in cost between a flight and bus. Obviously, a flight is more expensive. Any reasonable person can deduce that. Of course, this is not what Glenorchy Air stands behind (and you can draw your own conclusions about whether or not that means Glenorchy Air is reasonable...). I would later find out that - during discussions with the manager of Glenorchy Air - that a "coach-cruise-fly" trip is actually more expensive than a "fly-cruise-fly" trip generally. This is true - a quick look on some tour websites will show that a 'fly-cruise-fly' may set you back about 455 NZD, and the coach-cruise-fly option is 535 NZD. Now, Glenorchy Air adamantly maintained that this was because taking a bus is a valuable option - people CHOOSE to take the bus because you get to see more scenery, etc. This is of course all hogwash. I would first note that a coach-cruise-coach journey is 175 NZD - so by their logic, this should be even more expensive than either option, but is dramatically less. The reason the mixed option is more expensive, I presume, is because you are essentially paying for both - you have to underwrite the cost of their plane sitting in the airport in milford sound or flying back regardless if you are there or not AND you have to pay for the coach ticket on the way back AND the way there to reserve your seat. Not to mention, you don't really see a "fly-cruise-coach" option - but only a "coach-cruise-fly" option - which makes sense because who wants to take a 4.5 hour bus ride after a grueling 8-hour day of touring? No one would pick it, and yet they were arguing that in fact people do, and people pay MORE. The key point here is, though, that we did not choose any option - it was chosen for us, and it is not what we wanted or paid for. So who should bear the cost of that if any?

- Notwithstanding all of the above, weather or not this was the policy or not, as a matter of good business practices, we think any modicum of effort in refunding some part of our fee for something we did not want would be the right approach here. If you look to commercial airlines - even if the weather is bad, they don't cancel the flight and tell you to find another way home - they rebook you, they find another flight, they give you a hotel. And they pay for it. That is sort of the market accepted approach. And, in light of the circumstances that we specifically went through (with the bus, etc.) you'd think something would be called for.... In fact, the pilot - whether he knew or not - did promise us something.

So i explained all of this to the Glenorchy Air person who happened to answer the phone and who was familiar with our plight. While she had a few stock "this is our policy" and "i really can't do anything" lines to throw at us, after a while she seemed sympathetic and put us in touch with the manager.

And this is the worst part: I began to re-explain all of this to the manager. About half a minute into this, I was cut-off abruptly and told more or less that: (1) it's their policy, just accept it, (2) the point about how people actually pay more for a coach-cruise-fly than a fly-cruise-fly and (3) that she was going to hang up because I was wasting her time. And before I could get another word out, she actually just hung up on me. Wow.

I told our concierge what had happened, and she told us that she was not surprised actually - that she had dealt with her in the past and that she was difficult and that was the reason why the hotel did not actually use them in their sponsored excursions. I also conveyed the message to Rosco's the kayak operator so that they could take appropriate action if any - and they also did not seem that surprised but promised to look into it.

I didn't hear anything after that, and was pretty sure I was not going to get anywhere with Glenorchy or the intransigent manager, but I do hope that any other person is well aware of their business style before booking anything, especially in 'unpredictable weather' season.

Bottom line: there are myriad flight operators in Queenstown - please pick one that isn't apparently known for being difficult in the off-chance that things don't go as planned. And, if you do a partnered excursion like Rosco's fly-kayak-fly, I would try to arrange the flying separately with another carrier.

Visited October 2013
Helpful?
10 Thank Steve S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glenorchy, Owner at Glenorchy Air, responded to this review, October 14, 2013
As you can imagine we were most distressed to receive your review and fully acknowledge the validity of your complaint. We would like to offer our unreserved apologies.

We have carefully reviewed your complaint and concede that in this particular case we have not achieved the high standards we set ourselves. The kayaking trip is a particularly long excursion. Where we fell down was in not informing you before you left on the flight to Milford Sound that in the event of unforeseen weather deterioration, you may have to return to Queenstown by coach. Unfortunately this happened and you got back to Queenstown three and a half hours later than you otherwise would have, had we been able to fly. We also neglected to ensure that the bus driver knew where to drop you off in Queenstown.

Therefore we would like to offer you a refund of half the cost of the aircraft fare. We hope that this will be acceptable. Please contact us with your email address so we can arrange this refund.

You may be interested to know we have changed our procedures to avoid this ever happening again.

Please accept our sincerest apologies.
Robert Rutherford, Owner.
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Shanghai, Shanghai, China
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Exciting Flight Experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 9, 2013

It's an exciting experience flying from Milford Sound to Queenstown. This is my first time to fly in a eight-seat aircraft and it is really an unforgettable experience. The sight of Milford Sound is fantastic! Our pilot Ray is very kind and he gave a professional narration. Thanks for the trip and follow-up email.

Visited October 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Chen_Feng_1016
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glenorchy, Front Office Manager at Glenorchy Air, responded to this review, November 2, 2013
What a great way to experience your first flight in a light aircraft. We pride ourselves in having two new GA8 Airvans which are perfect for flightseeing tours as they have nice big windows! Ray and all of us here at Glenorchy Air are glad you had such a good time with us and hope to see you back.
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