Cheapest flights to Asia axed

Last updated 14:58 20/03/2014

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The cheapest flights to Asia will disappear from July, when Jetstar cuts its direct flights between Auckland and Singapore.

The low-cost carrier had indicated it would use its much-hyped Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route, but has instead scrapped the thrice-weekly service.

It's a blow to leisure travellers wanting cheap flights to Southeast Asia, as fares typically hovered around $700 return to Singapore, and offered discount connections to tourist hotspots like Phuket and Bangkok.

The only direct flights to Singapore, after Jetstar pulls out on July 21, will be on full-service carrier Singapore Airlines.

Singapore Airlines recently announced a codeshare alliance with Air New Zealand on services between New Zealand and Singapore that will boost capacity by up to 30 per cent. Jetstar's withdrawal means the alliance will have an effective monopoly on the route.

Singapore Airlines has won numerous airline service awards, but passengers can pay about double a Jetstar fare on the route.

Jetstar began flying daily to the city-state in March 2011, but subsequently reduced frequency to three times a week due to weak demand.

Jetstar spokesman Phil Boeyen said demand had fallen again and the airline would now only offer flights to Singapore via Australia.

"Unfortunately the route has not performed as we would have liked and we have decided that the capacity could be put to better use on other routes," Boeyen said.

Singapore is Jetstar's Asian hub and offers connections to other Southeast Asian destinations.

New Zealand passengers who have booked seats with Jetstar after July 21 are being offered a full refund, the opportunity to bring their travel plans forward or to fly later in the year via Australia.

Auckland Airport said it was disappointed in the move, which it said would see 100,000 low-fare seats removed from the market and reduce the travel choices of about 85,000 people.

Glenn Wedlock, Auckland Airport's general manager aeronautical commercial, said the cancelled route would also affect inbound tourist numbers.

"The cost of this announcement to the New Zealand tourism industry is over $70 million every year, so it's important we secure capacity in wider Asian markets to replace this loss," Wedlock said.

Wedlock said Jetstar's decision to pull out of the market, rather than take on the Air New Zealand-Singapore Airlines alliance backs up the airport's concerns about the deal which is subject to regulatory approval.

"Today's announcement confirms the concerns we expressed to New Zealand's minister of transport that the proposed alliance between Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand could have detrimental impacts on the growth and promotion of competition in international air services," he said.

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Jetstar cutting flights to and from Singapore will affect Auckland International Airport's revenues from landing fees.

- Stuff

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