Fly to Hawke's Bay, locals urge Jetstar

By Roger Moroney

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Air New Zealand's domestic services rival Jetstar has confirmed it has been approached by regional airports like Hawke's Bay and that it is looking at the potential of expanding into those regions - but that is as much as it is prepared to say at this stage.

As well as approaches from the Hawke's Bay Airport company, the region's populace were also regular callers to Jetstar asking the airline to start domestic services here.

"We get a lot of public enquiries from around the country from people about our regional services. Hawke's Bay [callers] are at the top of that list," a Jetstar spokesperson said.

"Hawke's Bay is very vocal in saying 'Come here'."

The regional network has come under recent scrutiny from the Australia-based airline which operates under the umbrella of parent company Qantas.

"Jetstar is always interested in potential opportunities to bring its low fares model to as many travellers as possible," the spokesperson said.

However, despite the interest in spreading its wings into domestic centres such as Hawke's Bay, there were no guarantees or timeframes on the table.

"While some background work is being done it's very early days and there are no current plans to launch a regional service. Any expansion from our current network would have to be commercially viable and sustainable."

Any moves to bring its Airbus A320 jets to Hawke's Bay, which along with the Boeing 737-300 jets can operate off the extended 1750 metre runway, would require the introduction of additional handling work at regional airlines.

That was underlined in the airport's 2013-2030 Master Plan which reported: "With the recently completed extension of the main runway to 1750m the opportunity exists for jet operators using Code C aircraft such as Airbus A320s and Boeing 737-300s but would require development of aviation security measures at the airport. International (transtasman) service, whether ad hoc or scheduled, would require enhanced security and also border agency and policing services."

While Jetstar operated A320 jets on its New Zealand services, its parent company Qantas operated turbo-prop aircraft on some Australian domestic services.

There was no indication at this stage they would be used in New Zealand skies.

Air New Zealand has come under fire for its fare prices on domestic flights in and out of Hawke's Bay, something which had created a groundswell of people calling for the airport to get a competitor in.

Airport board chairman John Palairet said the company had made approaches to Jetstar and as well as other regional airports, was investigating the possibility that another airline may be looking at starting domestic services.

He said the decision to fly through the Bay was down to the airline, and getting that to happen so that fares could lower was the number one priority.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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