Budget airline Jetstar is working on an image change. The airline, which today will carry its five millionth domestic passenger in New Zealand, says it will modify its pitch beyond just price.
Jetstar has been hammered with some bad publicity, first over reliability and then customer service and its chief executive for Australia and New Zealand, David Hall, said the airline was working hard to do better.
While its on-time performance has improved markedly, the latest high-profile service failing was the handling of Muriwai shark victim Adam Strange's mother, Jeanette, whose friend was told she would have to pay an up-front fee of $350 to urgently change a booking to get to Auckland.
"We failed on that and we sincerely apologised to Mrs Strange. We're doing everything to remedy that situation," he said.
Although she would have been refunded later, Hall said the call centre in the Philippines had let her down and he would visit staff there to explain how to improve service to the market.
"It's through training, it's ensuring that people in the call centre are more connected to the markets and they understand the issues and we handle situations with empathy."
The airline was also investing more in training for its cabin crew and airport staff in New Zealand.
"We have a model and that underpins low fares, but in delivering that model we need to bring a lot more [of] that human element to it - the empathy."
Staff should treat customers as if they were friends and family.
Since starting domestic operations here in June 2009, Jetstar's advertising has emphasised cheap and cheerful but Hall said it was time for a broader approach.
"You'll see the brand evolve."
By the end of the year the local leadership team would be comprised of New Zealanders and over the past few months the company has signed collective agreements with unions here for engineering staff, cabin crew and pilots.
Jetstar is releasing special $5 fares this morning to mark carrying five million passengers since launching domestic services nearly four years ago.
The Qantas subsidiary said there would be "hundreds" of the fares on sale from 9am to 10am for travel on its core Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch network for travel in August.
Air New Zealand is today offering 324 $1 grabaseat fares this morning on main trunk routes where it competes with Jetstar for travel during September. On its Nelson to Wellington route it is offering 13 seats at $49 for later this month.
Jetstar's chief executive Australia and New Zealand David Hall said that since domestic flights began it had sold nearly one million seats for $50 or less.
Jetstar now employs nearly 500 people in this country and had expanded its fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft to nine. It flies over 140 services a week.
It was looking at expanding its services here, this year concentrating on its main trunk jet services, he said.
"We're strongly focused on further improving our on-time performance and our customer service standards."
New Zealand's busiest Jetstar destination is Auckland with over 2.1 million domestic passengers since 2009 , Christchurch is second busiest with 1.3 million domestic passengers while one million passengers have flown on the airline out of Wellington.