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Travellers will bypass city due to flight cuts

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 08:42 20/09/2012

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Budget airline Jetstar has cut the link between Christchurch and Queenstown due to low demand, meaning some international travellers will bypass the city still in recovery mode after the 2011 earthquakes.

The low cost operator owned by Qantas Airways will also reduce the number of trans-Tasman flights from Christchurch to Melbourne and the Gold Coast.

At the same time Queenstown has won extra services from Melbourne and Sydney meaning it grabs more of the inbound Australian travel from Christchurch.

Christchurch International Airport's chief executive, Jim Boult, said while the loss of the services to Queenstown was very disappointing, "we're yet to engage with Jetstar to see whether anything could be salvaged".

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said the city was still battling to win back Australian travellers that had fallen off as a result of the quakes. But he did not see the Australians ignoring Christchurch, instead they were more likely to travel by road from the Garden City to Queenstown.

Jetstar is making the changes from November 15 as it adjusts for changes in demand which have seen it add an extra A320 aircraft to take its total New Zealand fleet to nine allowing 150 weekly domestic services.

Jetstar Australia and New Zealand chief executive David Hall said Christchurch would get an extra seven return flights a week to Auckland taking that total to 43. The Garden City would also get an extra seven flights a week to Wellington, taking the total to 21 return services.

The airline would add another 50 jobs to its workforce although these would be skewed towards the North Island given that the airline had recently undertaken a recruitment drive in Christchurch, he said.

Jetstar now held about 21 per cent of the domestic routes it operated on, having increased the airline's patronage in the 12 months to June 30 by about 30 per cent from the June 2011 year. "I'd love to be about 30 per cent of the market [we operate in], it gives us great critical mass," Hall said.

The company was adding up to 20 additional weekly return services between Auckland and Wellington, meaning an additional 600,000 seats were available domestically each year.

Within that total there would be an extra 131,000 seats in and out of Christchurch. On the trans-Tasman routes Jetstar would reduce the number of Christchurch to Melbourne return flights by one to seven a week.

The airline would reduce the number of Christchurch return flights to the Gold Coast by one to three a week.

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Hall said the company remained committed to Christchurch where four planes were based providing a total of 100 direct jobs in the city and an extra 100 taking into account baggage handlers and other jobs. But the five-times weekly route to Queenstown had not been performing well.

He expected the quake-hit city to see a visitor recovery in the next 12-18 months.

- The Press

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