Qantas subsidiary Jetstar has proposed ending its regional turboprop services in New Zealand at the end of November with the airline’s CEO expressing the “disappointment” of the carrier and regional centres affected.
The airline announced its proposal to withdraw regional Q300 turboprop services from 30 November as the regional operation continues to be loss making, combined with higher fuel costs and softer demand. “The New Zealand regional market is facing some headwinds,” commented Gareth Evans, Jetstar’s chief executive officer, “we don’t see the outlook changing any time soon.”
Jetstar began flying to the regional hubs in 2015 and currently offers up to 130 return services a week during the peak season across five routes: Auckland and Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North and flights between Nelson and Wellington.
“We have given it a real go. However, despite four years of hard work, including becoming the most on-time of the two major regional airlines and having high customer satisfaction, our regional network continues to be loss-making,” Evans commented.
“We understand there will be disappointment in regional centres at today’s announcement,” he added. Speaking at a press conference announcing the proposal, Evans expressed the disappointment of the airline, adding that it had been in contact with affected airports and sees a similar reaction as well as a recognition that “these are difficult markets.”
Evans celebrated the airline’s role in bringing low fares and competition to the regions commenting: “We’re immensely proud of what our regional team has achieved to help Kiwis see more of their country for less. Last year 25 percent of our regional customers paid less than $50 for their flight and 75 percent paid under $100.”
He thanked “loyal” regional customers, as well as regional stakeholders for their support.
The proposal won’t impact the airline’s New Zealand domestic and international services and Jetstar will continue to offer up to 270 domestic jet services a week between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown and up to 100 international flights a week on the Tasman and to Rarotonga.
Evans continued that it would be “business as usual” for the rest of the airline’s New Zealand operation, adding: “From the end of October, we’re doubling our Queenstown to Wellington services to six per week and we’ll continue to look at opportunities for our domestic trunk routes and international flying.”
The airline will begin a consultation process with approximately 70 affected employees on the proposal and expect to announce a final decision before the end of October. Alternative employment options would be available for all affected across Jetstar and Qantas Group businesses.
Meanwhile, Jetstar customers booked onto the regional turboprop services after 30 November will be offered options including a full refund. According to reports approximately 15-20,000 were booked on flights beyond 1 December.