17 Sep 2010

Case for domestic flight expansion questioned

8:16 am on 17 September 2010

An aviation analyst is questioning whether there will be enough passenger demand to fill more than a million extra seats on domestic flights over the next year.

The Australian low-cost carrier Jetstar is increasing its domestic services in New Zealand by 50% from February, in a bid to double its market share to 20% in a year's time.

It's investing $100 million in order to add an extra 717,000 cheap seats a year between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Air New Zealand also recently announced it will add nearly half a million extra seats on its main routes and regional network.

Both announcements follow the departure of Pacific Blue, which is pulling the plug on its domestic services from the middle of October.

Confident of filling seats

Jetstar's new chief executive for Australia and New Zealand, David Hall, won't say if its New Zealand business is profitable, but he says it needs to attract 20% of the market in order to keep its low-cost airfares and services sustainable.

Mr Hall says he's confident the airline will be able to fill the new seats, but independent aviation commentator Peter Clark says it will be interesting to see whether there'll be enough passenger demand to sustain the extra services that both airlines plan to offer.

Mr Hall says Jetstar is also in discussions to expand its network to regional areas in the longer term, and both airlines aim to increase capacity on their trans-Tasman routes as well.