Jetstar is the second airline to schedule evening flights into and out of Queenstown Airport.
The Qantas-owned low-cost carrier plans to operate a daily Melbourne-Queenstown service with Airbus A320s from June 24 that lands at the popular New Zealand tourist destination at 1920 local time, before turning around and returning to Australia at 2020.
The schedule will be in place until August 31, Jetstar said in a statement on Thursday.
Jetstar’s head of New Zealand Grant Kerr said the airline had finalised its “operator safety case” with regulators, the airport and its own pilots, with the proposed flights now awaiting regulatory approvals.
Kerr said the start of evening flights would offer passengers more options.
“Holidaymakers will be able to take more advantage of short breaks and spend a full day on the slopes before their flight home,” Kerr said in a statement.
“The new schedule also provides better connectivity for customers who are travelling with our long-haul partners to and from Queenstown via Melbourne.”
Air New Zealand announced in January a new evening Auckland-Queenstown service that was due to kick off from July 1.
The addition of evening flights at Queenstown Airport has been in the works for a number of years, as the rising popularity of the city has placed the airport under some pressure at peak periods, particularly during the winter months.
In May 2014, New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted provisional approval for Queenstown Airport to extend its operating hours into night flight operations, subject to subject to the airport meeting a number of conditions such as runway improvements and the installation of a comprehensive aeronautical lighting package.
Construction work began in November 2015 and was expected to be completed by April 2016.
Other requirements from the NZ CAA and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) also included a customised crew selection and training package; employing the full capability of the existing Required Navigation Performance (RNP) technology; and changes to on-board flight procedures to reduce pilot workload on final approach.
The airport has also expanded its terminal facilities to cater for the increased demand.
Queenstown Airport acting chief executive Mark Edghill said evening flights would help spread out the growing number of flights at the airport over a longer period.
“Due to time differences and airport curfews, the majority of our international flights currently arrive between midday and 3pm and need to depart before it gets dark at about 5pm,” Edghill explained in a statement.
“This creates an intense period of activity in order to get aircraft turned around.
“We’re delighted with Jetstar’s plan to shift flights across to evening slots and thank the airline for its continued support and commitment to provide our passengers with more choice and flexibility.”
Edghill said 80 per cent of the airport’s international passengers during the peak winter months were from Australia, up from a year-round figure of 69 per cent.
Queenstown Airport has published a video of a simulated night time landing: