Air NZ to scrap standby fares
Air New Zealand has announced it will scrap standby seats - ending one scheme for passengers to get cheap flights - despite recently coming under fire for the price of provincial flights.
The national carrier said standby seats would go in five weeks - a decision it said was driven by customers.
Standby seats, which cost $69 no matter which airport you depart from, are usually snapped up by travellers looking to fly cheaply at the last minute.
But, as of May 6, the option will no longer be available.
Luke Chandler, a regular visitor to Palmerston North, said he will miss not just the price of Air New Zealand standby seats, but also the flexibility they offer.
He said he flew about once a month from Christchurch, with many of those flights to Palmerston North to visit his sick grandparents.
But he would probably end up flying much less when standby seats are cut.
"I'll have to put up with not going to see my family, or book time off later in the year when the airfares are cheap.
"Unfortunately, Grabaseat fares sell out fast, so keeping an eye out can be annoying."
While standby seats were cheaper for spot trips, Chandler said it was not only their price that had attracted him.
"It's the flexibility of them.
"Being able to turn up one day with no ticket and being able to get on the plane is a massive advantage to me."
Air NZ said the standby seats were being dropped "in recognition of the greater availability of cheaper airfares and the fact customers prefer to be able to purchase confirmed seats at great prices".
Air New Zealand spokeswoman Marie Hosking said she could not say how many people had used the service because those numbers were "commercially confidential".
But the move was not done to make more money, because there were already seats sold for prices lower than the standby rate, she said.
Aviation analyst Roeland van den Bergh said the move was likely part of a wider review of the sale of their seats.
"It was a way of selling an epmty seat and getting some money for it, but there really might not have been that much demand."
Van den Bergh said it was likely many people enjoyed having the option available, but it was unlikely many people had the time to spend sitting in an airport for a flight that may or may not happen.
He said given the success of Grabaseat and the Night Rider fares, a $69 fare may have once been considered cheap for a last minute flight, but when compared to confirmed booking deals, far cheaper flights were now available.
"Too, against the background of airlines working to increase their seats, they'll need to fill that capacity and there'll be a reluctance to rely on walk-in fares."
Air New Zealand has been upgrading its fleet since 2011 to replace its 15 Boeing 737-300 aircraft, with 14 new Airbus A320 aircraft - adding close to two million seats a year to its haulage by 2016.