Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Regional airports woo Jetstar

Low-fare airline says priority is main centre jet routes but it is assessing the viability of flying to the regions.

Hawkes Bay Airport runway was extended in 2009 to accommodate jets and encourage airlines other than Air New Zealand to start services. Photo / APN
Hawkes Bay Airport runway was extended in 2009 to accommodate jets and encourage airlines other than Air New Zealand to start services. Photo / APN

Airports around the country are actively courting Jetstar in the hope it will fly to the regions and increase competition.

Airports Association chief executive Kevin Ward said there was frustration at overall fares and regional airports would welcome a competitor to Air New Zealand.

Jetstar has said that while its main centre jet routes remain its priority, it continues to assess the viability of flying to the regions, possibly using turbo-prop planes now operated by its parent Qantas on its regional routes in Australia.

Ward said regional airports were constantly trying to attract another operator.

"That's part of their normal business," he said.

"The big international airports go offshore and try to do that and the domestic airports are always trying to get more competition on the local scene.

"There would be more choice and the average fare would come down."

Air New Zealand said it had introduced more cheap fares and grabaseat deals on to regional routes where it does not have the loads or economies of scale that are on main trunk routes. It said it had also been hit with steeply increased airport charges for turbo-prop aircraft.

The Hawkes Bay Airport company said it had been in discussions with Jetstar.

Chairman John Palairet said bringing in competition was a focus for the airport, which had extended its runway in 2009 to accommodate jets and encourage other airlines to start services.

"The issue for most regional airports is competition," Palairet said.

"There is one airline coming in and they provide a very good service but air fares are seen as being high so we continue to make efforts to get another airline to come.

"We can't make them come, there has to be a business case for them to establish a new route so what we've done is create the facilities to make it possible and then beyond that continue to liaise with them."

Local MPs Chris Tremain, who is Local Government Minister, and Craig Foss, Consumer Affairs Minister, are reportedly frustrated by the lack of competition and the resulting high costs of air travel from the region.

Hawkes Bay Today reports that the MPs said they would be writing to and meeting competitors of Air New Zealand over the next month to ask them to consider increasing their services to regions such as Hawkes Bay.

"We acknowledge that there are more grabaseat opportunities and more capacity from Hawkes Bay," Foss said.

"However, we are very concerned that the development of Hawkes Bay may be being held back by current arrangements.

"This has direct implications for business development and growth in our region."

Jetstar cuts flights in low season

Jetstar has cancelled more than 300 domestic flights because of a dip in demand on main trunk routes over May and June.

A Jetstar spokesman said schedule "optimisation" was done from time to time.

"It's a low season over that period so we're probably doing more than normal. It's business as usual, it doesn't signify anything."

Air New Zealand said it was putting on more seats during those two months compared to last year.

The Jetstar spokesman said the cancellations were concentrated on the Auckland-Wellington route where it has most services and most passengers could be re-booked on alternative flights "within hours".

"Optimisation means you take a look at market demand and how many flights you've got and you change your schedule accordingly - all airlines do it."

He said the airline would not cancel flights for commercial reasons in less than a seven-day period.

"You don't do that because it stuffs everybody up but looking further out decisions are made ensuring the majority can be put on to other flights within a matter of hours."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 25 May 2017 00:24:30 Processing Time: 473ms