Jetstar and Air New Zealand regional fare war slashes some prices by 40 per cent

One-way regional fares start at $29 on Jetstar and $45 on Air NZ. Airfares to Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North have fallen sharply since budget airline Jetstar started flying to regional centres in December.

But the fare cuts don't always live up to the dramatically low discounts New Zealanders were promised by Jetstar.

When Qantas-owned Jetstar announced it would expand its network to the regions using a fleet of five 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turbo-prop aircraft Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said regional fares could be slashed by 40 per cent.

Jetstar's regional airfares are often cheaper than Air New Zealand but customers are not always happy with the service.

The move immediately triggered a price war between Jetstar and Air New Zealand, which had previously enjoyed a monopoly on most regional routes.

Both airlines started selling thousands of tickets to the regions for as low as $9.

Nearly four months later one-way regional fares have settled to start at $29 on Jetstar and $45 with Air NZ.

House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said competition from Jetstar had driven prices down, but they were not 40 per cent cheaper across the board.

During high demand travel periods - such as peak business hours in the morning and afternoon - regional airfares had not become much cheaper, he said.

But there were pockets of travel times where airfares had become at least 40 per cent cheaper, he said.

"There has definitely been a downward shift in pricing."

Aviation commentator Irene King said travellers wanting the cheapest airfares should consider flying one airline one-way and return on the other.

"Consumers just need to be savvy and shop around," King said.

There was a perception that Air NZ's airfares were more expensive than Jetstar's but that was not always the case.

"Largely that's right but it's not always true."

King said Tuesday and Wednesday were the best days of the week to book for travellers wanting to snap up a deal.

"For some reason people don't like to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Bookings are always much much lighter at that time of the week."

Booking travel for mid morning and early afternoon, six to eight weeks in advance, would usually get the best pricing, she said.

Airfares to the regions booked six weeks in advance and at non-peak times show Jetstar to be between $20 and $30 cheaper than Air NZ.

Many customers would be happy to pay extra for full service on Air NZ.

Jetstar customers frequently come up against hurdles such as online and kiosk check-in systems not working and flights being cancelled.

In March Jetstar cancelled 10 out of 100 regional flights between Friday and Sunday due to two separate cases of pilot illness.

Tickets booked a week in advance for travel during peak business hours on Air NZ could be hundreds of dollars more expensive.

A 6.45am Air NZ flight from Auckland to Palmerston North costs $239 while on Jetstar the same flight at 8.25am costs $69.

An early morning Air NZ flight from Auckland to Napier costs $169 compared to Jetstar charging just $45.

 - Stuff