Strong demand for domestic flights as Jetstar starts flying again

Jetstar has cut-price airfares on sale from July 1 and pilots are preparing for a return to work.

There is a high demand for domestic air travel in the coming months, budget airline Jetstar says.

The company has resumed flying on Wednesday, with more than 2000 passengers booked on flights to five destinations across the country, the airline said.

The flights to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown, represented approximately 60 per cent of Jetstar's normal domestic schedule.

Jetstar Group chief executive Gareth Evans said there was pent-up demand for domestic air travel.

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"We’ve seen a strong response from customers snapping up our low fares, booking and planning flights for the weeks and months ahead," Evans said.

Jetstar flew daily Auckland-Dunedin flights before the Covid-19 outbreak.
Jetstar flew daily Auckland-Dunedin flights before the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Our return to the skies will get more people out into communities that rely on tourism and bring a much-needed boost to local businesses. It also means more of our New Zealand team members are back at work, which is great news."

There would be some noticeable changes in the onboard routines for customers, including masks and sanitising wipes, he said.

Airlines have been hard hit by the spread of the coronavirus with restrictions on travel and a marked drop in demand for international flights.

Jetstar's operations ground to a halt at the same time its parent company Qantas suspended all international flights in late March due to fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

After announcing it would resume domestic flights, the company offered limited discounted fares including Auckland to Wellington and Auckland to Christchurch from $21. Flights from Christchurch to Wellington were on sale for $32, and Auckland to Dunedin from $45.

A spokesman said more than 15,000 bookings had been made in the first 24-hours of the sale.

However, some Jetstar customers were upset to find domestic flights they had booked were cancelled, even as new ones were being announced.

A number of consumers contacted Stuff to complain about the cancellations, with some saying the airline was now selling the same flights for four times what they had paid.

It sent emails to customers blaming Government travel restrictions. It said it had cancelled domestic and Trans-Tasman flights until June, and because it was reviewing operations beyond June it had cancelled some flights in July.

Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson said on June 5 it had received complaints about Jetstar's cancellations.

"Where an airline has accepted bookings during level 2 and has now cancelled the flight, it would be a stretch for it to blame the cancellation on Covid-19," she said.