14 May 2010

Westport News puts local airfares and reliability under spotlight again

Source : Westport News, 7 May 2010

Flights to Oz cheaper than to Wgtn Flying to Sydney may cost you less than flying from Westport to Wellington, with enough money left over to buy a decent book at the airport. Air New Zealand’s (Air NZ) sale on flights to Sydney from Christchurch closed at midnight yesterday. The News picked a few dates and compared the cost of a return flight from Christchurch to Sydney with the cost of a return flight from Westport to Wellington. Leaving Christchurch for Sydney on Friday, August 20 and returning Monday, August 23 would cost you just $178 (seat only). Travelling between Westport and Wellington on the same days would cost $238 return at the cheapest fare (smart saver). Air NZ spokeswoman Tracy Mills said the special promotion to Sydney cost only $89 each way because it was a seat only airfare. The cheapest year-round airfare for Christchurch to Sydney, seat only, was $169 each way, while the cheapest year-round airfare for Westport to Wellington was $79 one way, including a checked bag. However, The News couldn’t find a $79 fare from Westport to Wellington till May 23, over two weeks away. You would have to wait till June 16 to return to Westport for $79. If you urgently needed to get to Wellington today you would have to fork out $239 one way. Ms Mills said Air NZ’s fare pricing was based on a number of factors including volume, demand and capacity. Pricing on the main domestic jet routes was generally lower because the higher number of seats reduced the operational cost per seat. “We continue to reduce the cost of travel from all of our domestic ports, including Westport,” she said. Air NZ’s regional fare reductions, announced in October last year, included cutting fares between Westport and Wellington, she said. Smart saver fares dropped 6 per cent to $79. Ms Mills said Westport’s service to Wellington was not under threat. “Air New Zealand continues to monitor all of our routes to ensure we are matching capacity to demand, however we have no current plans to reduce flights out of Westport.” Community support was the key to maintain regional route like Westport’s.
Service reduced
Many Westport travellers now drive to Nelson or Christchurch to catch air flights because flights are cheaper, more frequent and less likely to be cancelled. Local patronage grew strongly after Air NZ increased its Westport to Wellington flights from seven to 12 a week in February 2007. However since mid-2008, patronage has declined mainly due to the economic recession, according to Air NZ. Demand for the service fell by 2 - 3 percent last year. Air NZ cancelled 40 flights from Westport to Wellington over 2008-09. Thirty-nine cancellations were for bad weather and one for an engineering problem. However 94 percent of the scheduled flights had gone ahead. This compared to 97 percent from Christchurch and 99 percent from Nelson, for Air NZ’s regional airlines (Eagle Air, Air Nelson, Mt Cook). Nationally, 97.5 percent of regional flights went ahead.

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