Would-be budget flyer Kiwijet keeps dream alive with Plan C

By David Stone

In its sixth press release since May, would-be budget airline Kiwijet has announced a Plan C, which would see it buy four British Aerospace (BAE) RJ-100 jet aircraft - an updated version of the planes that were previously flown by Ansett New Zealand - and begin flying domestic services late next year.

Kiwijet's Plan A - taking over Qantas' New Zealand subsidiary Jet Connect - was turned down by the Australian airline; and Plan B - the acquisition of Embraer regional jets - was dropped, Kiwijet said, because the planes would not be available when wanted and would prove extremely difficult and costly to certify and maintain in New Zealand.

But Kiwijet's chief executive, US-based Patrick Weil, appears not to have given up.

According to Flight International's 2006 airliner census, the RJ-100 jet aircraft Kiwijet now has in view is operated by nine airlines, including British Airways' City Flyer and Lufthansa's CityLine.

Weil was in Britain last month to inspect the four RJ-100s, which have 90 seats. He claims they will be ideal for services to most New Zealand provincial centres, providing them with their first "low cost product".

Weil also says he has reported progress to Kiwijet's "equity group" in Los Angeles and that "seed funding" was extended that would carry through to early next year. At that time due diligence would be carried out to determine whether the required capitalisation of US$35 million would become available.

Weil envisages Kiwijet operating from Auckland and Christchurch to five regional centres: Dunedin, Hamilton, Invercargill, Nelson and Palmerston North. He also hopes to negotiate connections with airlines that have no ties with Air NZ.

He says a two-tier pricing scheme would be offered, with peak fares applying between 8.00am and 6.00pm on weekdays. Passengers would be allowed 30kg of free baggage, as well as free snacks and beverages. Weil says Kiwijet would be offering free seats during the first 48 hours of operation on a first come first served basis.

Provincial passengers will now have to wait to see if Kiwijet's Plan C becomes any more a reality than its aborted Plans A and B.

* David Stone is an independent aviation commentator.

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