Jetstar for Nelson? Bring it on


A mock-up image of a 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turbo-prop aircraft in Jetstar livery.

A mock-up image of a 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turbo-prop aircraft in Jetstar livery.

A lobbying campaign to bring Jetstar to Nelson is already being planned, following its announcement to bring low fares to the regions.

Qantas-owned Jetstar plans to start flying 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turbo-pro aircraft to at least four initial regional destinations. Centres being considered are Nelson, Invercargill, Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier and Palmerston North.

Jetstar has launched a social media campaign asking customers which regions they most want serviced and the airline will go on a two-month roadshow to determine which destinations to choose.

A mock-up image of a 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turbo-prop aircraft in Jetstar livery. A mock-up image of a 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turbo-prop aircraft in Jetstar livery.

Regional fares will go on sale in September with the first flights taking off in early December, in time for the busy summer and holiday season, the airline said.

Nelson Airport and Nelson Tasman Tourism are already planning to woo Jetstar with a strong business case for it to select Nelson.

"I think it's wonderful," Nelson Airport chief executive Robert Evans said of Jetstar's move. "It's the game changer the regions have been looking for, for many years."

It means Nelson could soon have five airlines - Air New Zealand, Sounds Air, Air2there, Jetstar and Kiwi Regional - making it much more competitive.

Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene said that in partnership with Nelson Airport it would be keen to help lobby to bring Jetstar to Nelson.

``We attract the seventh highest number of visitors, domestic and international, so it makes sense to make use of us as a central point between the regional network and make links with Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch," she said.

It would help build Nelson's profile as a great region to visit, including in the shoulder months, she said. "It's a really good option for growth of visitor numbers."

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce, who joined Prime Minister John Key to make the announcement in Auckland, said the time was right to bring Jetstar's low fares to the 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.

"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.

"These new regional destinations will connect with the broader Qantas Group network, including both Qantas and Jetstar flying across the Tasman, to make these parts of New Zealand more accessible to international travellers," said Joyce.

A factor that could be in Nelson's favour to be chosen by Jetstar is that the airline's New Zealand head Grant Kerr was previously Air Nelson's general manager. . He won $60,000 in costs from Air NZ in an employment battle, after it tried to keep him from starting his new job for six months. Kerr has headed Jetstar New Zealand for two years.

Evans said he believed Jetstar's selection decision would come down to the market size and yield.

Nelson Airport, NTT and the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency would need to get together to build a business case and make a strong pitch to Jetstar, he said. "It's got to be a consolidated effort. It will be competitive and we can present the best opportunity to them."

Evans was in Wellington at a meeting about the redevelopment of Nelson Airport's terminal when he heard news of Jetstar's announcement. He said it was timely as it would need to consider changes such as passenger volumes and check-in counters.

Jetstar's move comes as newcomer Kiwi Regional Airlines is also preparing to launch its services around New Zealand, including Nelson. It hopes to start flying at the end of this year or start of next year.

In February it announced plans for regular seven-day a week flights between Nelson and Queenstown, Palmerston North, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Its chief executive and director is Ewan Wilson, founder of the defunct budget airline Kiwi Air. He has said that rather than competing directly with Air NZ it planned to complement existing services, filling in the gaps.

- Stuff