Jetstar's new routes, Nelson make the cut

Launch 2 Jetstar has announced it is adding Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North to its regional destination network, starting from December.

Low fares on five routes between Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Auckland and Wellington have also been unveiled.

Nelson-Auckland and Napier-Auckland flights would start the beginning of December, in time for the tourism season in both popular holiday destinations.

New Plymouth-Auckland, Palmerston North-Auckland and Nelson-Wellington flights will follow early next year, with services scheduled to begin from February 1 next year.

"In the past several weeks our New Zealand management team has travelled to eight regional centres and received a warm welcome and very positive support in every city we've visited," Hall said in a statement.

The Qantas-owned low-cost airline said in June that it was going to expand into the regions. Cities being considered included Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier, Palmerston North, Nelson and Invercargill.

After lobbying from regional mayors, airports and tourism promoters, the airline this morning announced the winners.

Economic potential and the ability to support two airlines are the main criteria for choosing the destinations, to be served by five 50-seater Bombardier Q300s, with the first flights planned for this year.

"For us to go into the regions, we have to know how we can bring growth. It's not about going in and taking a part of the pie that's already there," said Kerr.

Tourism industry says Jetstar move good for regional 'dispersal'

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts said Jetstar's foray would undoubtedly directly stimulate travel to the four selected destinations.

"Competition is always good and it's welcome that there's now a significant regional network as [an] alternative to Air New Zealand.

"For the first time in some time we have a significant alternative choice for consumers." The move would result in more tourists travelling to the regions "simply by the fact there'll be more seats available and more competition on prices," Roberts said.

"Tourism is on a high at the moment, it's growing very strongly and a key to future growth for New Zealand is regional dispersal - getting visitors all around the country - so any initiative that helps spread the visitors around is welcome news.

"This has significance for the international travellers as well, because for Qantas and its associated alliance airlines, they now have a regional network within New Zealand that can be included in itineraries, whereas previously they were restricted as to where they could take the visiting international traveller to - often it was only as far as Auckland and then the traveller had to switch to Air New Zealand or make other travel arrangements."

Jetstar move 'payback' says Air NZ

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said last week that Jetstar's entry into the regional market was partly payback for his airline's entry into Australia.

Luxon said the Jetstar regional move was more of a "macro-strategic" play.

"Qantas was quite bruised by Virgin Australia taking it on. It's a little bit of this is payback for challenging them in their home market."

Jetstar was able to access spare five Qantas group aircraft sitting on the ground and put them to use here.

The arrival of Jetstar's 50-seat Q300 aircraft in New Zealand wasn't "something we should get too freaked out about." Luxon said.

"Having said that great there is choice for customers across the country and it's great there is competition."

Other smaller airlines were also flying to towns Air New Zealand had pulled out of earlier this year (Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport).

Luxon said Air NZ was spending $300 million upgrading its regional fleet over four years, upgrading to 68-seat ATR planes which would give it cost advantages over Jetstar.

"I feel really comfortable with our ability to compete there. We need to keep it (the Jetstar regional service) in perspective I think it's been a bit overblown to be honest with you."

Regional mayors welcome Jetstar's arrival

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said the decision was "huge news" for the region.

"It's a complete game-changer for tourism growth opportunities. Competitive airfares are good for domestic tourism but this will also open up international connections to Australia too."

The mayors of Napier and Hastings said the result was the ultimate reward for the regional team behind the pitch.

"This is simply wonderful," said Napier Mayor Bill Dalton. "The team worked hard and showed Jetstar we are a region on the up with plenty of untapped potential."

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said it was a long-awaited prize.

"The only way to substantially reduce the price of airfares for the people of Hawkes Bay is by competition. It is very exciting that we have landed a large player."

Business Hawke's Bay chief executive Susan White welcomed a second "sustainable carrier" servicing the region.

"We are convinced this will contribute to the growth of our regional economy and we look forward to the expansion of routes over time."

With expansion plans already underway, Hawke's Bay Airport chief executive Nick Story said the timing couldn't be better. "It's a very exciting day for the airport company and a great day for the Hawkes Bay region."

- Additional reporting: Brendan Manning, Hawkes Bay Today

- NZ Herald