Jetstar throttles-on with nine new pilots to be based in Bay

By Patrick O'Sullivan

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Jetstar Head of NZ Daniel Banens (left) and HB airport CEO Nick Story are flanked by Napier and Hastings mayors and flight crew at today's announcement.
Jetstar Head of NZ Daniel Banens (left) and HB airport CEO Nick Story are flanked by Napier and Hastings mayors and flight crew at today's announcement.

The high-altitude battle for bums on seats has seen Jetstar double its Hawke's Bay workforce. Nine new pilot jobs based will be based in the Bay and more are planned as it positions for growth.

From October four captains and five first officers will join the existing nine ground jobs at Hawke's Bay Airport.

Jetstar head of New Zealand, Daniel Banens, said some of the new pilots were already working in aviation in the region while others were moving to Hawke's Bay.

"The idea is to move pilots from Auckland to Napier, particularly people that are already embedded in the community with flights here - it would be better for them and better for us," he said.

The nine new roles comprised four captains and five first officers, but they won't be flying anywhere new just yet.

"At the moment we are quite happy with where we are - it's about consolidating those routes and making sure we are delivering on those routes," he said.

Currently the Qantas-owned airline flies four return trips to Auckland every day except Saturday when there are three - 27 over the week compared with Air New Zealand's 66.

When asked if Wellington would be the next Jetstar destination from Hawke's Bay Mr Banens said a range of destinations was being considered.

"I think definitely in our long-term planning we would like to grow the business."

He said Jetstar enjoyed "huge support" from Hawke's Bay travellers since it arrived in 2015 and Jetstar pilots were positive about Hawke's Bay. Offering it as a base helped recruitment and retention.

"We believe there's the potential to add at least a further eight pilot roles to the region in the next year or so," Mr Banens said.

"As well as being a great place to visit, Hawke's Bay offers a fantastic lifestyle for our pilots and their families."

Jetstar began operating international services in New Zealand in 2005, domestic services from main centres in 2009 and regional services in 2015. It currently carries more than two million passengers annually between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North.

Air commuter and Xero CEO Rod Drury said Wellington Air New Zealand flights were often full but larger planes made a difference. He said competition was a positive force and he understood prices to Auckland fell thanks to Jetstar.

"What's exciting though is the amount of people that are travelling - the airports around New Zealand are packed," he said.

"In Hawke's Bay it is really quite something."

Hawke's Bay passenger numbers rose 20 per cent in 2016 compared with 2015 - 113,644 more passengers. For the seven years prior to Jetstar flights passenger numbers were flat.

The airport terminal is due to start a major expansion this year. Hawke's Bay Airport chief executive Nick Story said the new Jetstar pilot roles were a further vote of confidence in the region "and we look forward to further growth".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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