Cheaper fares board's focus

By Roger Moroney

2 comments


Firing up competition and accordingly reducing airfares is the "number one" focus for the Hawke's Bay Airport company.

Talks on trying to achieve both are presently on the table, chairman John Palairet has said.

Responding to yesterday's Hawke's Bay Today story about travellers preferring to drive to the main centres to catch international flights as well as flights to other domestic destinations such as Queenstown due to high fare prices out of the Bay, Mr Palairet said the issue was a simple one.

"It is down to competition," he said, adding that the reason to extend the main runway was driven by the need to "establish a platform to provide the means for competition".

He said it was a long-running issue but the board had always been focused on it and talks had been taking place with Air New Zealand as well as with other regional airport companies.

Mr Palairet said he was unable to provide full details at this early stage but Hawke's Bay Airport had been looking at what he called a "separate initiative" with Air New Zealand and it involved fare prices.

The board met Air New Zealand about two weeks ago and the airline agreed lower fares would promote more passengers.

He said while there had been some fare improvement, particularly on stand-by and grabaseat services, overall the fares were still "way too high."

The board was also in touch with other regional airports in the wake of aviation industry indications that another airline is deciding whether to set up in New Zealand.

Over the past two years Air New Zealand's only main rival for domestic business, Jetstar, had been approached and talks were continuing. "We cannot compel airlines to come here - it has to be favourable for them to do that - the time has to be right," Mr Palairet said.

Jetstar had however been made fully aware of the facilities Hawke's Bay Airport had to offer and were happy with them.

"We are keen to get them, or a new player, in here."

He said suggestions by Hastings district councillor Simon Nixon that the board needed to be changed as it was not doing enough were off target.

"I am very comfortable with the level of expertise we have," he said, reiterating that the ultimate decision for another airline for the Bay was purely a business one.

"But we are doing all we can - it is the major focus of this board."

Labour's Napier spokesman Stuart Nash said: "As someone who works in Auckland two days a week, I am very well aware of the extremely high ticket price we pay, but the pain goes a lot deeper.

"Having talked to a number of people, both in Hawkes Bay and Auckland, I believe the price of airfares is one of the major barriers-to-entry for businesses thinking about locating in the Bay, especially companies with a medium-to-large sales force who are expected to visit customers in other provincial regions," he said.

"The fares you outlined are to a major city, however, try booking airfares, a week in advance, to go to Nelson for a day's work and it will cost $790 return, whereas from Auckland it is $400 return."

He said the reality was the business traveller often had to go places at short notice and so grabaseat fares were irrelevant.

Air NZ trumpeting the increase in the number of grabaseat fares was of little interest to a business traveller and just a marketing gimmick, he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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