Jetstar Airways plans to start regional services in New Zealand before the end of the year using 50-seat Bombardier Dash 8-Q300s, previously used in Australia by QantasLink. The low-cost carrier will operate a fleet of five turboprops on the enhanced network in New Zealand, bringing low fare competition to many monopoly domestic routes outside the country’s main centres.
The initial network will cover at least four regional points in New Zealand and new destinations under consideration include Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier and Palmerston North in the North Island and Nelson and Invercargill in the South Island, in addition to the airline’s current network of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.
The network and frequency will be announced in September following a series of visits to regional centres over the next two months to meet with airports, local government, and business, travel and tourism representatives to determine the first regional destinations and will likely connect with one or more of Jetstar’s current domestic destinations.
Fares will go on sale at the same time, according to the carrier, with flights starting in December 2015 in time for the busy summer and holiday season.
Jetstar launched trans-Tasman services in 2005 and domestic New Zealand services in June 2009. The carrier’s fleet of nine Airbus A320 aircraft operate up to up to 240 domestic and 100 international flights a week and it has established crew bases in Auckland and Christchurch.
After ten years flying to New Zealand, Alan Joyce, chief executive officer of parent, Qantas Group, said now was the right time to grow its activities and bring its low-fare model to New Zealand’s regions. “When Jetstar brought low fares to New Zealand’s key routes six years ago it completely transformed the market in terms of value and now we’ll do the same for regional New Zealand,” he said.
“The community has been calling out for more choice and lower fares on regional routes in New Zealand because there’s a lack of competition. We’re answering that call by launching Jetstar flights to regional New Zealand, making air travel more affordable for people who live outside the main centres and boosting tourism and the economies of these areas,” he added.
Jetstar Group chief executive officer, Jayne Hrdlicka, said the local airline’s leadership in domestic on-time performance over the past two years, combined with improved customer satisfaction, had placed it in a positive position for regional expansion.
“Jetstar wants to bring real competition and stimulate regional passenger growth,” she said. “When we first started operations in New Zealand, domestic fares across the country dropped by around 40 per cent, and we expect fares will drop considerably on the regional routes where we’ll operate.”
These new regional destinations will connect with the broader Qantas Group network, including both Qantas and Jetstar flying across the Tasman, and will therefore make these parts of New Zealand more accessible to international travellers.
The plans of Jetstar have been met with approval from the New Zealand airport industry. As an example, Wellington Airport has described the plans of the carrier as offering Central New Zealand a “transformative step” in its connectivity.
“Jetstar is a game changer. The new regional services will bring central New Zealand closer to the rest of the country and the World and with low cost fares,” said Steve Sanderson, chief executive officer, Wellington Airport.
“Jetstar will provide new avenues for tourism around central New Zealand and greatly contribute towards the Tourism 2025 goal of regional dispersal; ensuring tourists have the diverse range of options they are looking for around the country. This is great news for kiwis and international visitors alike and will grow travel markets,” he added.
This view is shared by Christchurch International Airport, where chief executive officer, Malcolm Johns described additional airline servicing of the country's regional centres as excellent news. "Connectivity is vital to the growth of regional economies. Additional flights will make it easier to move passengers, visitors and goods to and from these centres, creating jobs and economic growth," he said.
The new services, which remain subject to regulatory approval, will be branded, marketed and managed by Jetstar, but will be operated by QantasLink. Under this arrangement, Qantas-owned Eastern Australia Airlines, which has operated Q300 aircraft in Australia for QantasLink for over 15 years, will manage the aircraft operations.
Our analysis of OAG Schedules Analyser data shows that in just five years, Jetstar has grown to be a significant provider of services in the New Zealand domestic market with over two million annual seats. Last year it had a 15.9 per cent share of the country’s total domestic capacity and its offering is already scheduled to grow 1.7 per cent in 2015 ahead of this announcement, based on published schedules.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Jetstar has responded to community calls for flights to South East Queensland by announcing it will begin daily return services between Avalon and the Gold Coast from October 26, 2015. The launch of the Avalon - Gold Coast service is the first of two new routes Jetstar will operate as part of its ten-year agreement with the Victorian Government and airport owners Linfox Group.
“The Gold Coast is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Australia and we expect these direct flights will appeal to Western Victorian travellers looking for a relaxing getaway,” said David Hall, chief executive officer, Jetstar Australia and New Zealand.
The new flight will certainly provide greater inbound tourism potential with the addition of 65,000 extra seats a year coming into Avalon Airport. “We have a huge opportunity to grow local tourism with this 10-year partnership and it’s important we showcase Avalon as the gateway to amazing attractions along the western coast of Victoria,” explained Hall.
“The Gold Coast Airport serves a population of more than 500,000 people and we’ll work closely with local and state tourism bodies to promote the greater Geelong region in the South East Queensland market,” he added.
The new Avalon - Gold Coast flights build upon Jetstar’s five times daily return service between Avalon and Sydney. With the introduction of the new service, Jetstar will offer more than 780,000 seats a year in and out of Avalon. However, as part of a domestic network revamp, it will suspend its four times weekly service between the Gold Coast and Mackay.