17 December 2018

Blenheim has Jetstar Aspirations

Marlborough Airport only needs 78,000 more passengers using it a year to attract competing airlines into the market and drive down prices. The region has long struggled with expensive flights through its two main airlines, Air New Zealand and Sounds Air. Marlborough Airport chief executive Dean Heiford said Jetstar was "probably the most obvious" major airline contender to move into Marlborough. "We are on their radar," he said. "The problem is the proximity of Nelson, the population of Nelson and the volume of people." Heiford presented the update as part of an scheduled update on the Marlborough Airport at a Marlborough District Council planning, finance and community committee last month. He said Marlborough Airport saw about 322,000 passengers this year, a new record, and up about 22,000 from last year. Were numbers to continue on same upward trend, it would take about four years for Marlborough to hit the estimated 400,000 passengers needed to rope in more airlines. When councillor Jamie Arbuckle asked if Marlborough Airport could cope with another airline, Heiford said it could, but there would be several hurdles to cross first. "Effectively, we would have to provide them a space in the terminal, which would mean expanding and re-arranging the terminal," he said. "We'd have to look at extra apron space, because currently you can only service so many aircraft. And, depending on the volume and number of flights the airline would want to do, we would have to seriously have to start looking at what's called a parallel taxiway." The taxiway could join onto the main runway and reduce the amount of time aircrafts spent on it, increasing the number of flights. "One [aircraft] could be taxing up to take off, while the other is landing," Heiford said. Marlborough Airport chairman Richard Olliver also said unlike other airports, the Ministry of Defense owned the the land underlying Marlborough Airport, not the board. "That hamstrings the airport to some extent, the fact that we don't own the underlying land ... that restricts our ability to expand and get bigger," he said. Nelson was "quite lucky" because it was a servicing port for a lot of the New Zealand mid-range fleet, so it had aircrafts flying in and out all the time, Heiford said. "They can mark the prices accordingly, because anyone on the aircraft paying something is better than going empty somewhere," he said. Heiford said while there were other small operators that could come into the Marlborough market, they were "very sensitive" to price volumes.  Marlborough Airport chief executive Dean Heiford says Jetstar is the most obvious airline to move into Marlborough. A Jetstar spokesman said while the airline was "always open to new opportunities", it currently had "no plans to expand its regional operation". Jetstar came to Nelson in 2015 as part of its new regional network, and its arrival was a game-changer for the region as more competition meant lower fares for routes. A search of the Air NZ website showed flights to Auckland could cost between $20 to $140 more from Marlborough Airport than from Nelson Airport. Outside of the potential expansion, Heiford said both Marlborough Mayor John Leggett and the council's chief executive Mark Wheeler had held meetings with Air NZ, and broached the return of their direct flight to Christchurch. "Air New Zealand's answer was, 'OK, which region do we take an aircraft off to give you a direct flight to Christchurch?'" he said. Marlborough Airport is on its way towards seeing more airlines. "It's easier for Air New Zealand to push Marlborough people via Wellington and fill their capacity [to Christchurch] there. Doesn't seem any cheaper though, does it?" Though the Christchurch to Blenheim flight was still off the table for Air NZ, Sounds Air continued to fly the route about 17 times a week. The board was also working towards the installation of digital advertisements at the airport, which could offer a "guaranteed return" each year. It was also running an online survey following the completion of its new terminal to identify areas to improve. Marlborough Airport saw about 322,000 passengers this year, a new record, and up about 22,000 from last year. 

A very interesting article but some points I would make and questions I would ask...
  • Jetstar are not interested
  • Is Jetstar perfoming well out of Nelson??? Would Blenheim perform better or worse?
  • Air New Zealand found Blenheim-Christchurch a loss-maker so why would they want to reinstate it?
  • Sounds Air have a very popular service between Blenheim and Wellington, not to mention Christchurch and Napier and now offer a range of fares. The airport authorities don't seem to acknowledge Sounds Air. 


  1. Just the board spinning some stats. Nothing much more will come out of it

  2. Based on previously reported comments it looks like Soundsair have done due diligence on operating larger aircraft between Blenheim and Christchurch and decided it's not viable for them

  3. With a less than 2 hour drive to Nelson, I’d say Blenheim is lucky to hang on to the WLG & AKL Air NZ services. Definitely can’t see Jetstar coming there anytime soon.