• Tom Jordan

Jetstar to restart New Zealand domestic flights in July

A Jetstar A320 at Melbourne-Tullamarine Airport. Photo by Duy Khang Tran | AeroNewsX

As a result of the recent positive news on June 8th that New Zealand had completely eliminated the Coronavirus from within its borders, the announcement was made that all social distancing measures could also be lifted throughout the country, including on-board commercial flights. Qantas Group budget subsidiary Jetstar jumped on this announcement, notifying the New Zealand public it would be recommencing domestic services throughout the island nation on the 1st of July 2020.

Jetstar Airways as we know it was founded by parent company Qantas Airways in 2003, as a response to low-cost competitor Virgin Blue (now rebranded as Virgin Australia). Jetstar initially commenced operations using Boeing 717 aircraft inherited from Qantas, although these were soon replaced by brand-new Airbus A320-200s, with the first aircraft registered VH-JQG arriving in June 2004. Jetstar quickly took the Australian domestic market by storm and the airline soon began its first international flights to Christchurch in December 2005. The Jetstar success story soon spread around the Asia Pacific region with a Singaporean subsidiary Jetstar Asia being the first to take off, followed by Jetstar Pacific (Vietnam) in 2007. Domestic flights in New Zealand began in 2009, and finally a Japanese subsidiary, Jetstar Japan, began operations in 2012. Today the combined Jetstar Group of airlines operates 127 aircraft, consisting of the Airbus A320, A321 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner with a route network stretching from Yangon, Myanmar in the east to Honolulu, USA in the west.

When Jetstar began its domestic New Zealand flights in 2009, there were no low-cost carriers in the New Zealand market which was completely dominated by flag carrier Air New Zealand. Jetstar quickly expanded out of two hubs at Auckland and Christchurch to serve all five major cities in within the country with 210 weekly flights at its pre-coronavirus capacity. However, like many other airlines, Jetstar was forced to suspend flights due to mounting restrictions and lack of demand due to COVID-19. Therefore, on the 18th of March 2020, all Jetstar domestic flights in New Zealand were suspended indefinitely.

However, on the 8th of June 2020, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the welcome announcement that the Coronavirus in the country had been eradicated and social distancing requirements would be fully lifted. Jetstar made the most of this decision, quickly announcing it would reinstate 75 weekly domestic flights from the 1st of July 2020 across its entire New Zealand network. This schedule equates to 60 per cent of the airline's pre-coronavirus New Zealand schedule.

The new schedule from the 1st July consists of 24 weekly return flights from Auckland to Christchurch, 3 weekly return flights from Auckland to Dunedin, 27 weekly return flights from Auckland to Wellington, 14 weekly return flights from Auckland to Queenstown and a daily return flight from Christchurch to Wellington.

The airline has also confirmed it stands ready to further increase its schedule as more domestic and Trans-Tasman demand ramps up again, with CEO Gareth Evans stating that Jetstar was "well and truly ready to take off." Evans also reassured customers that the airline has extra cleaning measures in place and HEPA filters onboard aircraft which removed 99.9 percent of germs, including viruses.

Today, it was also noted that over 15000 tickets for the reinstated domestic flights were sold in the first 24 hours of being on sale. But despite the high demand for domestic flights, Trans-Tasman travel between Australia and New Zealand remains impossible due to border closures and no date has been locked in for Trans-Tasman travel to restart.

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