The background: Once upon a time not too long ago, it was more economical to spend over five hours in a car to get to the Hawkes Bay than to travel by plane. These days, thanks to Jetstar's recent entry into some of our smaller domestic centres and the competition that's followed, it's much cheaper to fly. If you're unrestrained by time and dates you can get flights for as little as $35 each way. I ended up with a flight to Napier on a Sunday on Jetstar for $49, returning on Air New Zealand the following Friday for $69.
The planes: The Jetstar plane was a Dash-8 Q300 while the Air New Zealand service was on a slightly larger ATR72-500.
Flight time: It takes about an hour in these smaller planes. We were half-an-hour late leaving on the Jetstar service, and about 15 minutes late on the Air New Zealand flight - no explanation for either delay.
How full: Chockas both ways. Napier was absolutely heaving last week thanks to the annual Art Deco festival, and the staff at Hawkes Bay Airport were dressed up in 1930s clobber. Air New Zealand staff were giving out fans at the airport - it was gearing up to be a hot weekend.
Entertainment: Strictly BYO on both flights. I managed to lose my iPod somewhere on the Jetstar plane, so unfortunately that cheap ticket price was somewhat negated.
The service: Mac on the Jetstar service was a bit of a character, stopping to compliment a man on his snazzy shirt, while the two Air New Zealand cabin crew were friendly and efficient.
Food and drink: Nothing on Jetstar unless you'd prepaid, and a cookie, hot drink and water, plus mandatory lollies, on Air New Zealand.
The toilets: One on each plane. Both were in fine condition.
Luggage: I just took carry-on luggage, though my little wheelie case was actually put in the hold on the Jetstar flight. There's not a lot of room in the cabin of those Dash-8s.
The airport experience: I'd never been to Jetstar's regional gates at Auckland Domestic Airport before and there was a bit of a kerfuffle with a late gate change where we were directed out of the terminal to what felt like a sort of Portacom structure, I guess set up for the new services. We had to board a bus (like at a major international airport!) to be ferried out to the Dash-8. Hawkes Bay Airport is basic but adequate.
Would I fly this again? At those prices? Definitely. Why would you drive?