COMMENT: Use it or lose it, they say.
Regular fliers to the regions — Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North — have enjoyed cheaper airfares in recent years. And it's all thanks to Jetstar operating Q300 turboprops on those regional routes. So today's announcement that the Australia-based airline will ground those services from December 1 will have a deep effect. (It's worth noting, there's no change to their jet fleet services in Queenstown and the big centres.)
Personally, I've always loved flying on Jetstar. It's cheap, and it gets you there as often as the more expensive one.
The regional withdrawal is not too surprising — both Air New Zealand and the little Aussie battler have said the domestic market was challenging.
Kiwis are a funny bunch when it comes to aviation, we're either livid with Air New Zealand for having the temerity to release a funky safety video or we're lazily loyal to the national brand. That loyalty was key here.
There are a couple of clear winners: Air New Zealand shareholders (by the way, that includes you and me, with the Government holding 52 per cent of the business) can look forward to more monopoly-fuelled dividends, and departing airline boss Christopher Luxon gets to exit his Fanshaw St office, arms raised in triumph having knocked down the scrappy regional contender.
The Jetstar decision also somewhat vindicates Air New Zealand's earlier withdrawal from other regions (goodbye Westport and Whanganui), underlining how tough it is maintaining profitable services to small centres.
Small carriers — like the redoubtable Air Chathams, who stepped into the breach after Air New Zealand withdrew from those services — might now see business opportunities in the centres Jetstar is departing. Though the prospect of rolling up their sleeves and tussling with the Koru will not be appealing.
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The losers? Passengers' wallets. Wherever Jetstar has competed with Air New Zealand — be it on the A320s flying into big centres or the Q300s that are affected here — the national carrier has responded to competition by sharply lowering its prices.
Kiwi travellers, generally well aware it was Jetstar's presence that had lowered Air New Zealand's prices, still booked with the national carrier. There's the lazy loyalty.
Air New Zealand say there will be no price rises on those regional routes until at least the end of 2020 "subject to fuel prices remaining stable". In related news, the fox that lurks outside my chook house says there will be no egg thievery increases provided there are no new gaps in the fence.
Jetstar might say they never got a fair roll of the dice. Bad press seemed to last longer and run further for the little orange planes, when in truth, their stats on reliability and performance generally match those of Air New Zealand.
And they often got a strange reaction. A Jetstar staffer at one regional airport once told me the airport's management team always had the orange planes parked a little way along from the terminal, and out of sight, even when there were no other aircraft around or due in.
We didn't use it, now we lose it.