Regional flights too expensive

00:54, Aug 25 2014

A Nelson woman in Saturday's paper was only experiencing what most feel about paying exorbitant prices for internal flights.

Helen Blaikie wanted to go to a close friend's funeral in Dunedin and looked up flights. To her horror, she found out it was going to cost $1352 for her and her husband to go. As she says, you can never plan for a funeral, so it's virtually impossible to get cheap fares.

One reader says she had to fork out just under $1000 to get herself and her daughter to Auckland from Nelson and back in June for her father's funeral. As she says, "that's just a ludicrous amount of money to find on short notice".

That's the nub of the issue - if you book late, you pay an unreasonable amount. Most of us try to plan ahead, but sometimes that can't happen for one reason or another.

It's bad enough for individuals, but can also badly affect small businesses. One regular Air New Zealand flier says she had to miss a business conference as a return flight to Auckland from Nelson was $560.

In Air New Zealand's defence, there is not the population base to provide cheap flights on all seats, as they can in Europe and other parts of the world.

What is galling is the huge discrepancy between the cheapest and highest cost of a seat on regional flights. As most in the industry know, most seats on planes are loss makers. Air New Zealand and other airlines make money through other products and services they provide.

Air New Zealand has also got rid of standby fares. When the former chief executive Rob Fyfe introduced them, many regional bosses were sceptical but they proved to be popular and failed to damage the business. Why the incoming CEO Christopher Luxton dumped them, who knows. If they had stayed, Blaikie and her husband would have had the option to travel to Dunedin on a cheaper fare.

Competition to Air New Zealand is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Jetstar won't be coming here anytime soon. Why should they? There's no guarantee that they will be supported. From past experience, when a new airline comes in, it's supported initially, but once Air New Zealand drops its prices people flood back to them because of the prices and frequency of flights available. Once the rival has been seen off, up go Air New Zealand's costs again.


The Nelson Mail