Jetstar's regional service takes off from New Plymouth
Jetstar's new regional route from Auckland to New Plymouth has officially opened.
The first flight into New plymouth arrived at 10am on Monday and the first departing flight was around noon.
The plane arrived into New Plymouth Airport a minute earlier than scheduled, which was a good start for the service, Jetstar New Zealand chief executive Grant Kerr said.
The first flight was celebrated with a morning of speeches, a rather large plane cake, and a powhiri.
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Jetstar Australia and New Zealand CEO David Hall said due to the evident success of the regional services launched in Napier and Nelson, it was unlikely the airline would be leaving the regions.
"Jetstar is here to stay - we've got off to a great start," he said.
"We're getting people travelling like never before."
The launch of Jetstar's regional service in Napier and Nelson in December had already seen a growth in passenger numbers, which was likely to happen in Taranaki as well.
Overall passenger numbers through Nelson Airport rose 18 per cent in December, with traffic on the Nelson to Auckland route increasing by 33 per cent.
Hawke's Bay Airport had a record December with passenger numbers increasing 14 per cent, compared with the same period in 2014.
Hall said the increase in passenger numbers was a clear sign Jetstar's lower ticket prices were stimulating the tourism market.
"Tourism operations in both regions have reported having a very busy summer and have noted the Jetstar effect in bringing more travellers to their region."
New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd was one of the people on the first flight out of New Plymouth and he was gifted a toy plane model of the Q300 by Kerr, to commemorate the company's arrival.
Judd spoke to the crowd who had gathered at the terminal and his excitement was evident.
"Thank you for believing in us as a province," he said.
Jetstar's departing flight set off right on schedule with Judd and New Plymouth district councillor Murray Chong along for the ride.
There were around seven empty seats on board the inaugural flight with many filled up with Jetstar executives.
The cabin was lined with the company's signature orange. The 45 minute flight arrived on time, in spite of a few initial bumps due to showery conditions that set in at New Plymouth before take off.
The airline is continuing its expansion of its regional network, adding Auckland to New Plymouth, Auckland to Palmerston North and Nelson to Wellington flights.
* Reporter Hannah Lee was on Jetstar NZ's maiden flight to Auckland from New Plymouth as a guest of Jetstar.