'Pick me' - Nelson gets its first chance to convince Jetstar to fly to the regio


Jetstar's roadshow will be in Nelson on Thursday.Jetstar's roadshow will be in Nelson on Thursday.

Nelson will have its first chance this week to convince Jetstar to fly here.

On Thursday, Jetstar NZ head Grant Kerr, along with the airline's airports team and government relations team, will be in Nelson to meet airport, council and other organisations' representatives. Nelson will be the first centre as its "roadshow" visits its shortlist of seven regional centres the airline is considering flying to.

Qantas-owned Jetstar announced last week it plans to fly at least four initial regional centres and is considering Nelson, Invercargill, Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier and Palmerston North.

A Jetstar spokesman said the decision would come down to commercial viability. "It's very much about being here for the long term."

The roadshow was being run because Jetstar was interested in hearing from local communities and getting their feedback on what their issues were and why they didn't fly often, he said.

Nelson people can also use social media to have their say in wooing the low-cost airline to the region.

Jetstar was getting a lot of comments on its facebook page with people telling them where they would like it to fly to, he said. "Some people would like to visit their grandkids more often. It's a great way to get feedback, to get people to give real live examples."

Jetstar was also looking to the regions to make links easier to its international connections in the main centres. "It's about people travelling out as well as people coming in."

The roadshow team would be talking to airport managers and mayors about their perceptions of demand in their area, its operational needs, space at airports, tourism numbers and what opportunities they saw in the future.

"It's also about costs. We can offer low fares if we have low costs," he said.

Infometrics senor economist Benje Patterson said the seven centres on Jetstar's shortlist would need to put significant emphasis on building a strong business case to entice the airline to their region.

"Although Jetstar has hinted that landing fees will form part of the decision-making process, underlying consumer and business demand for the service will certainly be the more important determinants.

"To convince Jetstar of this demand, cities must build up a strong business case and do so quickly, because everyone is competing head-to-head with one another," said Patterson.

Nelson Airport and Nelson Tasman Tourism heads said last week they would be working on a strong business case with other key organisations to put to Jetstar.

Nelson MP Nick Smith said he was hugely encouraged by the prospect of other airlines offering services to Nelson.

"Nelson is more dependent on air travel than most centres because of the five-hour distance by road to Christchurh and the six-hour including ferry trip to Wellington," he said.

It was also a real opportunity for Nelson's visitor industry to get more travellers to come to Nelson, he said.

"We also need to acknowledge Air New Zealand is a substantial investor in Nelson with its engineering base. My hope would be to see a strong expansion of its aircraft prop maintenance while also seeing a little bit of competitiion to ensure our travellers who depend on air travel can get a better deal."

Nelson is also set to become the pilot and crew hub for newcomer Kiwi Regional Airlines which announced in February plans for regular seven-day a week flights between Nelson and Queenstown, Palmerston North, Hamilton and Tauranga by the end of the year.

Its chief executive, Ewan Wilson, said although they'd heard the rumour late last year that Jetstar was looking at regional opening the timing of the announcement had been a surprise. "We think it's great news for the travelling public. It's absolutely superb.

"We don't think it will affect us at all. We believe with our schedule and route network it will be complementary, although there's still the question of what their route will be."

Jetstar was very much targeting Air New Zealand, said Wilson. ``We believe we will be in a unique position we will focus on region to region."

Air NZ and Jetsar were both well resourced and capable airlines. "As a first round there will be some great airfares," said Wilson.

Kiwi Regional Airlines had bought its first Saab aircraft and would make an announcement about that this week, he said.

On air fares, he said it would be the first airline to offer child fares up to and including 16, while other airlines charged an adult fare from 11.

Kiwi Regional filed its licence application to the Civil Aviation Authority two weeks ago and expects it will take three to four months to process.

- Stuff

LAURA BASHAM Last updated 07:57, June 23 2015