Jetstar group chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka says the the low-cost carrier’s New Zealand turboprop operations have not only boosted that country’s regional communities, it has also benefitted the national carrier Air New Zealand.
In December 2015, the Qantas-owned carrier established a fleet of five Dash 8 Q300 turboprops to serve regional New Zealand, with the aircraft operated by QantasLink’s Eastern Australia Airlines on behalf of Jetstar.
Hrdlicka says these regional flights to the likes of Nelson, Napier and Palmerston North, among other locations, have supported trade and given those living outside the big cities more opportunities to travel.
“Air New Zealand will be better off as a consequence and customers will be better off as a consequence because the total market size will grow, prices will come down a little bit and we will all work a little harder to ensure that there are more options, more choices for customers throughout New Zealand,” Hrdlicka told delegates at the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Australia Pacific aviation summit in Brisbane on Thursday.
“It’s good for everyone. Competition is good.”
Figures presented at the conference showed average fares in New Zealand had fallen more than 20 per cent in recent times, while the total number of air travellers had increased.
In April, Air New Zealand announced a significant shakeup to its domestic network involving additional capacity on main trunk and regional routes, as well as schedule changes designed to improve connectivity to its international hubs.
And in its most recent traffic statistics, Air New Zealand reported a 4.7 per cent increase in domestic passengers in 2015/16, compared with the prior year. However, with revenue passenger kilometre growth of 7.2 per cent below the 8.5 per cent increase in available seat kilometres, load factors on its domestic services fell one percentage point to 80.6 per cent.
Qantas is due to report its financial results on August 24, with Air New Zealand’s full year results to be released two days later.
Hrdlicka said Jetstar’s turboprop network was part of the airline’s efforts to be a disruptor in the air travel market.
“We are really proud of the innovation in business model, the disruption that that enabled and that is just one example in the last 12 months of something that we’ve done that had a huge social consequence and impact,” Hrdlicka said.
“It demonstrates the collaboration across the Qantas Group.”
Meanwhile, Hrdlicka flagged some potential new fare options for travellers looking for more flexibility in their tickets, such as those from small businesses travelling for work.
“We have different choices for fares today that provide more flexibility,” Hrdlicka said.
“But there is more that we can do there and maybe over the course of the next couple of months there might be some announcements to that effect. Maybe.
“For us it comes down to who is wanting to fly on Jetstar for purpose of business and then making sure that we make that as easy as possible for them and we do that in balance with the things that are driving the deep, deep relationships that Qantas has with its customers.”
Later, Hrdlicka said in response to a question of whether Jetstar would target Virgin Australia’s business travellers: “Our job is to make sure we understand where unmet needs are in the market and to fulfil those needs.”