Mount Cook Airline has a rich history which began in the early days of New Zealand when Rodolph Wigley established the New Zealand Aero Transport Company at Timaru in 1920 pioneering flights to Mount Cook and from Invercargill through to Auckland. This company had several successful years before a falling off of public interest in aviation led to the company winding up its activities. Rodolph Wigley's interest in aviation was undiminished and in a later enterprise he formed Queenstown - Mount Cook Airways with his son, Harry. The company operated charter flights around the Southern Lakes, Milford Sound and Mount Cook regions until operations were suspended with the advent of World War II. Harry, later to become Sir Henry Wigley, went on to become managing director until 1979.
The War saw flying paused until 1952 when operations started up again as Mount Cook Air Services using Auster aircraft - engaged in everything from scenic flying to agricultural work and rescue missions. Three years later in 1955 - what might be termed a 'breakthrough' took place when one of the Austers landed on the snow on the Tasman Glacier on retractable skis, designed and made in the company's vehicle workshops. The Southern Alps began to attract more people and to get them there. The Mount Cook Group built an airfield at Mount Cook and in November 1961 began scheduled services from Christchurch, Mount Cook, Queenstown and Te Anau using a 26 passenger DC3 aircraft.
In 1968 the first of six HS748 (Hawker Sidley) turbo-props entered service with Mount Cook Group Airline division and became the mainstay of the operation for the next 27 years. After taking partial ownership in 1961, Air New Zealand took a 100% shareholding in 1990. With the Air New Zealand livery being adopted in the mid 90's coincident with the arrival of seven x ATR72-200 aircraft - replacing the HS748's. The ATR72-200s were then replaced with the later 500's in the late 90's with the introduction of ART72-600s from 2012.
Today, Mount Cook Airline is an integral part of the Air New Zealand Link operation.