Air passenger numbers rebound

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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Jetstar says passenger numbers in and out of Christchurch are nearly back to where they were before the 2011 earthquakes, which had the budget airline reduce flights into the city.

The Australia-based airline, which has a strong presence in Christchurch, says numbers have gradually recovered since the damaging quakes, and that Aussies now view the recovering city in a more positive light.

There had been a steady improvement in numbers since the 2011 earthquakes, Australia and New Zealand chief executive David Hall said.

Jetstar's total domestic and international passenger numbers through Christchurch Airport fell by up to 4 per cent after the 2011 earthquake.

"Since May 2012 there has been a steady improvement and we forecast the total will be back to pre-quake levels in 2015."

Jetstar doesn't give overall passenger numbers for commercial reasons.

But Hall said Jetstar offered about 318,000 international seats in and out of Christchurch annually.

Given an average passenger loading of between 80-85 per cent, that translates to between 254,000 and 270,000 international passengers carried in and out of Christchurch each year.

It also offered more than 1 million annually from Christchurch to domestic New Zealand operations.

Jetstar represented about 30 per cent of travel in the New Zealand domestic "main trunk" market between Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch, and about 30 per cent of the wider trans-Tasman market, Hall said.

Jetstar has between 100 and 150 staff based in Christchurch helping to oversee the 67 return domestic flights linking the city with Auckland and Wellington each week, and 17 return international flights (34 flights in and out of the city) to destinations such as Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said in the 12 months before the February 2011 earthquake Air New Zealand operated more than 4.9 million domestic and international seats into and out of Christchurch.

After the quakes, demand fell, resulting in slightly reduced capacity for a period.

But for the 12 months ending January 2015 the airline would operate more than five million seats representing a 2.6 per cent increase in capacity, she said.

Christchurch Airport has also seen some rebound in passenger numbers, though the quake has hit the transport hub's bottomline. Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns has set a target of 8.5 million passengers through the airport each year by 2025, up from 5.7m a year now. In the June 2011 quake-affected year there were 5.8m passengers down from 6.0m in the June 2010 year.

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Johns said Air New Zealand had recently increased domestic flights into Christchurch, and also planned to put on an extra 43,000 seats from Christchurch "across the Tasman this summer".

New Christchurch Airport statistics showed a "record" number of 355,600 domestic passengers for the month of May, and international visitation of 95,700 had also been strong for that month.

"Capacity-wise for the coming summer we won't quite be back to where we were before the earthquakes. But load factors are much stronger . . . we're hoping within the next 12-18 months that we will be back to pre-quake levels in terms of (total) passenger movements," Johns said.

- The Press

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