OPINION: Air New Zealand has been savaging Southlanders who need to fly at short notice.
It needs to back up its promise of a review of last-minute airfares not simply because the Prime Minister has encouraged this, in mild language, but because the discontent throughout the regions has heated beyond the seething simmer and the reputational damage could turn really ugly, really quickly.
There's a mighty difference between the cheapest and most expensive seats on regional flights and the airline can't expect us to regard the cheap ones as a reflection of its own efforts and judgments, but accept the dearest ones as something else entirely - just the baseline about which nothing much can be done.
Hardly a soul hereabouts will fail to contrast the more wince-inducing fares to the recent announcement of a third year of handsome after-tax profit, this time up 45 per cent to $262 million.
This, chief executive Christopher Luxton grants, "certainly helps" the business keep a downward pressure on airfares.
Exactly how much help did these guys need? The aching sense of unfairness is all the more galling because late-notice flights already tend to be stressful for other reasons.
People aren't typically so unmotivated that they simply don't bestir themselves to book earlier. It's often because a need has arisen.
Good news tends to impel that need far less often than bad news. At the discount end of things, there's been movement too.
The airline has not only scrapped standby fares but in February it euthanised is Starfish discount card programme aimed at small to medium-sized businesses using regional airports, which failed to stimulate more regional travel as intended.
An unnamed spokesman at the time purred that the airline remained committed to ensuring there were more cheap fares than ever for regional travel and that "in 2014 Air New Zealand will further strengthen its commitment to regional New Zealand by offering more deals every day".
Well, expensive seats are deals too. Raw deals, in some cases.
The airline must expect scrutiny at both ends of the spectrum.
- The Southland Times
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