Fly­ing high on Jet­star’s exit

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE - Chloe Ran­ford, Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

Jet­star has done Marl­bor­ough a favour by pulling flights from re­gional cen­tres in New Zealand, the re­gion’s tourism boss says.

Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough chair­man Nigel Gould said Blen­heim could see an in­crease in tourism now that Jet­star has left

Nel­son Air­port, re­mov­ing price com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the re­gion’s two air­ports.

‘‘Any­body look­ing at pric­ing com­par­a­tive po­si­tions be­tween Nel­son-auck­land and Blen­heimauck­land [flight paths] will im­me­di­ately see the prices are almost in the same po­si­tion, which is great,’’ he said.

‘‘That means Blen­heim is now con­sid­ered, of­fi­cially, the gate­way into the top of the south, and is on an equal foot­ing with Nel­son.’’

Jet­star ended flights from Nel­son, Napier, Palmer­ston North and New Ply­mouth in late Novem­ber, say­ing ris­ing fuel prices and a slow­ing econ­omy made them un­sus­tain­able.

Gould said the knock-on ef­fects were ‘‘al­ready very ap­par­ent’’ in Blen­heim. A search of the Air NZ web­site showed flights to Auck­land cost about the same from Blen­heim and Nel­son.

Marl­bor­ough Air­port chief ex­ec­u­tive Dean Heiford said it was too soon to see an in­crease in pas­sen­ger num­bers, but he ex­pected more Marl­buri­ans would travel though Marl­bor­ough’s air­port, rather than Nel­son’s, in fu­ture.

‘‘There have been a lot of cheaper op­tions out of Nel­son [Air­port] in the past, but now, with Jet­star leav­ing, we will see an equal­i­sa­tion of fares, so there’s no ad­van­tage to go­ing to one air­port over an­other,’’ Heiford said.

He said Jet­star leav­ing Nel­son re­duced chances it would join Marl­bor­ough.

‘‘One of the things Nel­son Air­port had over Marl­bor­ough Air­port was sheer num­bers, with a higher num­ber of pas­sen­gers ser­viced in a year,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a mar­ket other air­line com­pa­nies are look­ing to get into, and with us hav­ing less pas­sen­gers, it’s not vi­able to have a third con­tender yet.’’

When asked if Marl­bor­ough Air­port was still look­ing at at­tract­ing air­lines, he said the com­pany was ‘‘al­ways look­ing at other op­tions’’ for the public.

‘‘Com­pe­ti­tion brings the prices down, both out of Marl­bor­ough, and into it.’’

Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough gen­eral man­ager Jac­qui Lloyd said Jet­star’s de­par­ture would help give air­lines and tourism com­pa­nies a ‘‘more rounded pic­ture’’ of who trav­elled in and out of Marl­bor­ough. This could im­pact ticket pric­ing, flight fre­quency or flight routes.

‘‘We’ve heard anec­do­tally that peo­ple will go to Nel­son to fly do­mes­ti­cally, so then air­lines think there’s no need for more flights to come out of Blen­heim. ‘‘This will make a dif­fer­ence.’’ Jet­star’s de­par­ture also gave Sounds Air, a Marl­bor­ough com­pany which also op­er­ated in Nel­son, a ‘‘great op­por­tu­nity’’ in the top of the south, she said.

Lloyd and Gould pre­sented Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough’s 2019-20 an­nual plan to the Marl­bor­ough District Coun­cil’s plan­ning, fi­nance and com­mu­ni­ties com­mit­tee last week. The an­nual re­port showed Marl­bor­ough’s seven-month tourism sea­son, which ran from Oc­to­ber to April, was ex­tend­ing, Gould said.

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