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Current as of 17/09/14 10:00AM NZST

Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Tasman airline battle heats up

Qantas and Jetstar launch new services on Perth and Adelaide routes which Air NZ has had to itself for years.

Air New Zealand is starting a seasonal service to Perth from Christchurch.
Air New Zealand is starting a seasonal service to Perth from Christchurch.

A new front in the transtasman airline battle is opening up over summer with competition hotting up on Perth and Adelaide routes.

While the fight for passengers on services to the main eastern seaboard cities has been playing for decades, Air New Zealand has had the Adelaide and Perth routes to itself for years. Air New Zealand is also putting on extra services to Perth, starting a seasonal service from Christchurch.

Qantas will operate during the holiday season with a twice-weekly A330 service, adding almost 1000 seats per week over Christmas and the summer holiday period between Auckland and Perth. Flights started on Friday and will continue until February 1.

The airline said the majority of customers booked on the services are from Perth or Auckland, and remaining bookings include traffic from Dubai and Doha to Perth and onwards to Auckland as part of the Qantas partnership with Emirates.

Qantas has warned its profit was plunging this year and has appealed for help to the Australian government to fight off competitors but says speculation that its services to New Zealand could be affected is off the mark and it remains "business as usual".

Qantas International chief executive Simon Hickey said demand for the direct Perth services had exceeded expectations, and it was seeing a mix of customers booking including those connecting from the Middle East.

"We have been assessing the market for some time, so we knew there was demand for a direct service between Perth and Auckland over the busy Christmas and holiday period," Hickey said.

"The new direct seasonal service is great news for inbound tourism [to New Zealand]," he said.

"We are already noticing customers travelling from Dubai and Doha, connecting through Perth to Auckland. The schedule is great news for holidaymakers who want to spend a week exploring New Zealand, or those wanting a quick weekend getaway."

Asked if there was any chance of it being extended beyond February, Hickey said: "We continuously review all of our routes to monitor demand and we increase services where viable."

Air New Zealand last week launched its first Christchurch-Perth service in 20 years and it will also operate twice a week.

"We are really pleased with current booking levels on the new service in both directions, with both regions utilising the direct link between the two cities," a spokeswoman said.

Jetstar is launching a direct Auckland-to-Adelaide service from the end of this week, operating every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday using an Airbus A320 on the flight which is just under five hours.

Air New Zealand flies daily services to Adelaide from Auckland.

Flight Centre NZ's general manager of product Simon McKearney said the new services were great news for Kiwis because they improved customer choice over the high season travel period.

"Air New Zealand have announced that they will be putting the new 787 Dreamliner on the Auckland to Perth route which is significant and shows that they're taking that route very seriously," McKearney said.

Although the services were launched with specials - with Jetstar offering some Adelaide seats at $99 - there may not be much of an impact on overall fares.

"It's a great opportunity for airlines to soak up seasonal capacity and because it is seasonal, we're expecting prices to stay the same," said McKearney.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden said it was encouraging new routes were being tested.

Figures analysed by the association showed there was potential in developing inbound tourism from Perth and Adelaide.

"We've been looking at Australia and although they're our biggest market there's significant untapped potential," he said. "The key thing [about] air connnectivity is that it is fairly fragile economics - the process of how you build them up is the main thing so it's good to see them testing the waters."

- NZ Herald

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