Jetstar is tomorrow morning launching Napier-Auckland-Nelson flights and services to New Plymouth and Palmerston North will follow next year. Aviation reporter Grant Bradley explains why it's one of the biggest shake-ups to domestic aviation in a decade.
1. There's a price war
Regional fliers have never had it so good. Jetstar launched with thousands of fares launched at $9 and says that thousands more have been sold for under $50. Incumbent Air New Zealand responded immediately with cut price fares and the timing of the announcement earlier this month on bringing in new aircraft to serve provincial towns - with the promise of even more pressure to keep fares down - was not coincidental.
2. There's an airline war
Air New Zealand doesn't break out the contribution that regional routes make to its bottom line but its competitive response is a sign it's up for a fight. As chief executive Christopher Luxon says, New Zealand doesn't lose to Australia at home. But Jetstar is not going away. Tomorrow marks a decade of flying in this country, it started with Christchurch to Sydney flights, and its domestic jet operation is now making money and parent company Qantas is now firmly back in the black.
3. There's a whiff of revenge
Qantas has been hurt by the attack of Virgin Australia, 26 per cent owned by Air New Zealand, on its lucrative domestic home turf. While there's a capacity truce the damage has been done. Launching into Air New Zealand's regional patch gives Qantas the chance to turn up the heat here. Jetstar says it will.
4. It should be different this time
Jetstar's launch into the domestic market flying main trunk routes seven years ago was marred by delays. It had a schedule that was too ambitious and included weather-sensitive Queenstown and it took a long time to shake off the image of being late. Jetstar has a fleet of five 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft to fly here, with one being largely spare. It is also stationing staff overnight in centres it is flying from to ensure it can fly the first service of the day.
5. There's a political dividend
Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key had a dig at Air New Zealand over regional air fares before the 2014 election and an airline review led to lower overall fares, and to some services being cut, and a new focus by the national carrier on its regional operation. Mission accomplished for Key who was also happy to lend his blessing to Jetstar's regional launch where he said those outside the main centres would be openly cheering. Mayors who have long felt aggrieved by Air New Zealand's service are very happy.