Jetstar news a hit with travellers

Stuff 1 SeptRegional air fare wars have begun with Air New Zealand moving within hours to match Jetstar's announcement of a $9 ticket sale to destinations including Nelson. Business and civic leaders predicted on Monday that Jetstar's move into regional routes would provide benefits for consumers and that was quickly borne out.

Demand was so great that Jetstar's website crashed, and it it extended its planned four-hour sale well into the afternoon.

READ MORE: * Nelson 'big winner' in Jetstar move * Jetstar announces new regional routes

The excitement is set to continue in Nelson with a special public breakfast at the 1903 site opposite the Church Steps on Wednesday to be broadcast by TV One.

And new airline Kiwi International has weighed in with a claim that it will be "the best bet for regional direct flights".

Jetstar unveiled its plans at 9am on Monday, saying it would begin flying the Nelson-Auckland route on December 1 this year and Nelson-Wellington on February 1 next year.

As well as the Air New Zealand response, it prompted a flurry of mostly positive comments on the Nelson Mail's Facebook page, although a few people complained of poor experiences with Jetstar in the past.

The news was also welcomed by Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle, who said the chamber shared and supported Jetstar's growth aspirations for the region.

"Many of our members will be delighted with this news," Kettle said.

The chamber recognised the potential in additional capacity and competition, leading to increased travel and growth of business in and out of the region, including greater options and choice around connecting to offshore markets.

"We are impressed by the Australian experience where airline competition has delivered evidence of growth," Kettle said.

Nelson Tasman Tourism is calling for as many residents as possible to join in the Jetstar celebration and have a free breakfast "on live TV".

As well as bacon butties and hot drinks, there will be quizzes, competitions and free merchandise, with the chance to win $1000 in Jetstar travel.

Start time is 6am and the organisers want people to arrive on time for the live TV crosses at 6.10 and 6.40.  The event will continue until 9am.

Meanwhile Kiwi Regional Airlines chief executive Ewan Wilson said he was pleased that Jetstar was connecting "a handful" of regional centres to Auckland and Wellington.

"But we note that still  none of the big airlines are offering region to region direct flights, like Kiwi is.

"Kiwi Regional Airlines' pledge to regional centres in our country is that we will always put their needs first when considering future routes."

The company's first aircraft was due to arrive in Hamilton from Europe today,  Wilson said.

Flights would begin on October 27 and include twice daily direct services between Dunedin and Queenstown, and four return flights a week between Dunedin and Nelson, and Nelson and Hamilton.

With Nelson-based Originair already flying Nelson-Palmerston North and set to begin a Nelson-Wellington service, and Sounds Air adding extra flights to its well-established Nelson-Wellington route, the region is set to enjoy the most competitive airline market it has ever experienced.

Origin Pacific went head-to-head with Air New Zealand on domestic routes in the early 2000s with residents and visitors benefiting from their struggle for dominance.  Tough Air New Zealand tactics eventually vanquished Origin Pacific and it collapsed in 2006 with the loss of more than 200 jobs, and $21 million in debts.

Air New Zealand is expected to take similarly hard stand against Jetstar but some commentators are noting that it will be a more even contest this time, with the newcomer being a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qantas, set up to service the budget market.


 Bill Moore

Last updated 09:34, September 1 2015