09 June 2024

Jetstar - The Aussie Low Cost Carrier Flying our Skies

Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd, operating as Jetstar established by Qantas in 2001 as a low-cost domestic subsidiary of the Australian national carrier with Australian domestic services were launched on the 25th of May 2004. In 2009 it also launched domestic services in New Zealand and is the second largest domestic airline in New Zealand.

Jetstar's first international services began on the 1st of December 2005 when Jetstar commenced services to New Zealand with Airbus 320 flights offered connecting Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast’s Coolangatta airport to Christchurch.  On the morning of that day Airbus 320 VH-VQS operated the first flight to Sydney, JQ410, and Airbus 320 VH-VQU operated the first flight to Melbourne, JQ406. In the afternoon VH-VQS operated the first flight to Brisbane, JQ416, and VH-VQU operated the first flight to Coolangatta, JQ418. The initial schedule saw 10 flights a week to Sydney, 9 to Melbourne, 7 to Brisbane and 2 to the Gold Coast.

Jetstar Airbus 320 VH-VQR on approach to Christchurch on 27 June 2006

Further services to New Zealand started on the 28th of April 2009 when Jetstar commenced serving Auckland from both Sydney and Coolangatta with daily services. In a press statement Auckland Airport chief executive Simon Moutter said the arrival of Jetstar services to Auckland is a ‘win-win’ for everyone. “The arrival of another international carrier to Auckland is giving more travellers more choice, helping to grow tourism and trade, and even creating jobs and economic growth for New Zealand. The launch of the Jetstar services is great news for the budget-conscious traveller. Jetstar is renowned for its low fares, breaking down the barriers to air travel and making it more accessible for people to fly.

But a much bigger launch was looming. On the 10th of June 2009 Jetstar launched domestic air services in New Zealand taking over Qantas’ main trunck routes. "Jetstar's expansion into domestic routes within New Zealand is a further significant growth milestone to become the Asia Pacific region's leading low fares airline," said Jetstar's CEO Bruce Buchanan. Bruce also commented that Jetstar's entry into New Zealand’s domestic market would result in up to 250 direct jobs.

The previous day two of Jetstar’s Airbus 320-200's positioned into Auckland in readiness for the launch of services. On the 10th Airbus 320 VH-VQB flew its first flights as JQ263 and JQ262 with flights from Auckland to Wellington and return. It then flew from Auckland to Queenstown direct before returning via Christchurch and then doing two Auckland to Christchurch return flights. The second Airbus, VH-VQT, did an Auckland to Christchurch return as JQ245 and JQ244 for its first flights before flying to Queenstown via Christchurch with a direct flight back to Auckland. It then did an Auckland-Wellington return followed by an Auckland-Christchurch return. This initial schedule saw 5 flights per day between, Auckland and Christchurch, 2 between Auckland and Wellington and a daily flight from Queenstown to both Christchurch and Auckland.

The first day of operations, however, was marred by teething problems. The following day the NZ Herald reported that Low cost airline Jetstar will be hoping today runs smoother than yesterday. The Qantas subsidiary broke new ground by offering nearly 6000 fares for "$0' but launch day was blemished by a ground equipment glitch in Wellington which led to delays snowballing beyond two hours. The airline said container loading equipment failure had been exacerbated by new staff learning new procedures. A spokesman apologised to passengers affected.

A change of titles... the original titling of a Jetstar Airbus 320 as seen on VH-VQT at Auckland on 17 July 2012

...and the prominent Jetstar titling as seen on VH-VGN at Auckland on the same day

A Guy Body Cartoon reflecting Jetstar's start up woes, NZ Herald, 24 June 2009

Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan was aboard one delayed flight and said the airline typically met on time performance targets up to 90 per cent of the time in Australia. He said there would be more sales along the lines of the "$0" on some seats that were available for travel early next year. Once its Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch-Queenstown services were bedded in, the airline would look to add frequency and other regions. Buchanan said flying jets out of Hamilton, Dunedin, Invercargill and Rotorua was a possibility and a decision would be made early next year.

The seat provided to the Herald for yesterday's flights was leather, like those on the other domestic budget airline Pacific Blue, and had a seat pitch of 76cm, the same as most seats at the back of Air New Zealand Boeing 737s but slightly less than the average on Pacific Blue. Frequent fliers or passengers who pay more on any of the airlines can get more leg room. Jetstar's menu is more spartan than Pacific Blue, offering nuts, Pringles and and noodles for between $3 and $4 and a range of sweets or beverages. Jetstar cabin crew get a 10 per cent cut of onboard sales.

Jetstar's three Airbus A320 aircraft on domestic routes are almost new, as are many of the cabin crew. They were unfailingly helpful and cheerful despite the two-hour wait in Christchurch.

From the 24th of June a third Airbus 320 was deployed for the New Zealand services. The Airbuses are able to operate both trans-Tasman and domestic operations allowing the majority of maintenance to be done in Australia. The use of a third Airbus enabled an additional Auckland-Christchurch service as well as an additional Auckland-Wellington service. It also enabled the introduction of a daily Christchurch-Wellington service. The daily Wellington-Christchurch route marked the "full realisation of the airline's launch schedule", chief executive Bruce Buchanan said. The airline also announced additional Auckland-Wellington and Auckland-Christchurch services and a "lowest fare finder" application on its website. The application was a "simple and easy-to-use tool" which showed the lowest fare on any given day, he said.

Jetstar was the second pure low cost carrier to serve the New Zealand domestic market and with Pacific Blue already here and Air New Zealand also seeking a certain level of the low cost market. The low cost carrier model relies on maximum use of the aircraft and accordingly tight schedules which can be thrown into disarray with weather and mechanical problems. The model also relies on no tolerance for late passengers and other charges to improve the bottom line. As the air war began with the national carrier so also the war of words began. The NZ Herald reported, Air New Zealand today said it was offering $50 one-way tickets to help out frustrated Jetstar customers. It said the fares would be available to Jetstar customers left stranded by the airline's 30-minute check-in policy or delayed by more than two hours. A storm of criticism erupted on Saturday after Auckland rugby fans booked on a Jetstar flight to Wellington for the All Blacks' test were left behind. The airline said the passengers had arrived at the airport eight minutes before the flight was due to leave, while the passengers said they had complied with the 30-minute requirement. Jetstar executive manager commercial David Koczkar said it was "ironic" that it was only after Jetstar's entry into the New Zealand market that Air NZ decided to offer customers low fares - "and not even to their own customers, but to ours"'. "We thank Air New Zealand for finally supporting the concept of truly low fare travel." However, he did not comment on the problems the budget airline had faced since its entry into the New Zealand market. Mr Buchanan said Jetstar offered "award-winning service" and the introduction of another aircraft was an opportunity to refine scheduling. "Importantly this includes better timed services, more time buffers throughout the operating day to recovery from weather related delays and longer block and turn times," he said.

Jim Eagles in the NZ Hearld of the 30th of June noted, Jetstar's own figures show that in its first six days only 20 per cent of flights ran within 20 minutes of the scheduled time which isn't a great start (though it has improved markedly since). Rival budget airline Pacific Blue happily took the opportunity to point out that in the first five months of the year it was within 15 minutes of the schedule 92 per cent of the time. Air NZ cheerfully added that it generally keeps within 10 minutes of the schedule 90 per cent of the time…  More than ever airlines will have to tread a careful line between getting a return on the capital invested in their planes and providing a reliable operation, offering competitive prices and giving the standard of service the public expects.

From the 17th of March 2011 Jetstar introduced daily Auckland-Singapore flights using an Airbus 330-200. Operated by Airbus 330 VH-EBE, JQ401 arrived on the 18th and returned to Singapore the same day. As with its New Zealand domestic and trans-Tasman services passengers had to pay extra for food and entertainment and depending on the type of fare, there were charges for bags.

Jetstar's Airbus 330 VH-EBD on departure from Auckland for Singapore on 27 March 2012

By April 2010 Jetstar were operating six Airbus 320s on the New Zealand domestic operation and had filled one million seats in New Zealand since it started flying domestic routes.  

Meanwhile, in August 2010 Pacific Blue announced that it would exit the New Zealand domestic market In October 2010 leaving just Air New Zealand and Jetstar operating the main trunk routes. Jetstar Executive Officer Bruce Buchanan said the company is committed to New Zealand. "We plan to further grow our existing domestic New Zealand routes and will investigate new destinations in line with our strong and expanding market presence since commencing domestic flying in June 2009." Buchanan said Jetstar would look to expand beyond its existing key airports of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

On the 4th of September Christchurch was struck by a major earthquake followed by a much more destructive one on the 22nd of February 2011. Nonetheless, in mid-September, in the time between these two significant earthquakes, it was reported that Jetstar will increase weekly return flights between Auckland and Christchurch from 35 to 49 and between Auckland and Wellington from 21 a week to 35 a week. There will also be additional frequencies between Auckland and Queenstown and Wellington and Christchurch. Air New Zealand has also said it would increase capacity, including gradually replacing its Boeing 737-300 fleet with larger A320s. Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan said the increases would boost Jetstar’s domestic market share to about 17 per cent. "It is getting up to the point where we have got some relevancy in the market place, and that is good for the travelling public and it provides a viable alternative in terms of frequency now,"

Jetstar introduced trans-Tasman flights to Queenstown in December 2010. Twice weekly flights from Melbourne began on the 16th and from the Gold Coast on the 17th. At the same time Jetstar expanded its Auckland to Queenstown service from daily to 11 times a week. By this time Jetstar had deployed seven Airbus 320s for the New Zealand domestic operation with an eighth introduced in early 2011.

Eventually the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes did impact on Jetstar’s services and on the 30th of March 2011 it was announced it would cut three daily domestic flights to Christchurch and one Melbourne to Christchurch daily service.

Meanwhile, there was further trans-Tasman expansion with the introduction of thrice weekly Auckland-Cairns flights on the 12th of April 2011. JQ290 to Cairns and the return JQ291, which arrived in the early hours of the 13th, were operated by Airbus 320 VH-VQB.

On the 14th of July 2011 Jetstar added Dunedin to its domestic network offering a daily Auckland-Dunedin return service. Airbus 320 VH-VGO operated the first flight into Dunedin as JQ283, and the return to Auckland as JQ282. When the service was first announced, Jetstar Group chief executive Bruce Buchanan said the timing of the new route was important. "We really wanted to help the local economy by getting up and running before Rugby World Cup but this is a long-term move." Dunedin, as a community, was getting behind the service, he said. The airport was supportive and had great facilities, there was a market the company felt it could stimulate and that fitted well with the low-cost structure. He was confident the company would make the new route a success, after already setting up in 17 countries. "We haven't got into any market and not made it work ...We often adjust schedules and respond to things – like the Christchurch earthquake." With passenger numbers through Christchurch Airport down 30 per cent South Island tourism was suffering and it was hoped the additional 1239 seats into Dunedin would provide a boost.

Jetstar introduced a second new domestic route on the 22nd of December 2011 with the inauguration of a daily service between Wellington and Queenstown but this expansion was tempered by the later suspension of the flights between Christchurch and Queenstown from the 14th of November 2012 due to a lack of patronage. On the day after the Wellington-Queenstown flights were introduced, the 23rd of December, Jetstar introduced a new twice weekly Sydney-Queenstown service. This replaced the twice weekly Gold Coast-Queenstown service, which ceased operating from the 8th of November 2011.

March 2012 saw the cessation of the Christchurch-Brisbane service due to a lack of demand. The final flights, JQ182 and the return JQ183, were flown from Christchurch on the 24th by VH-VQU.

In September 2012 it was reported that Jetstar has committed a ninth Airbus 320 jet to its New Zealand-based fleet in a move that will significantly strengthen its main trunk operations. The extra plane will add 600,000 seats a year between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, a capacity and frequency boost that will give Jetstar added flexibility and around 24% of the market and give its competitor some serious gyp. From the 15th of November Jetstar will double its current Auckland – Wellington frequency to 10 flights a day, and will add a daily 0815 flight from Wellington to Christchurch, “breaking the morning monopoly” on that route, according to David Hall, CEO Jetstar Australia & New Zealand. Jetstar’s direct Auckland-Christchurch frequency will also increase to seven flights per day. “Scale, growth and frequency make it a very compelling product,” says Mr Hall of his airline’s increased offering. “Our decision was bolstered by the confidence the market has in us and by price sensitive mums and dads and by savvy business travellers who know they can do day returns to those key destinations at affordable rates.” The extra frequencies strengthen and underpin Jetstar’s operational flexibility, says Mr Hall. The additional Airbus entered service on the 15th of November 2012 to facilitate this expansion.

Jetstar Airbus 320 VH-VGU on final approach for Wellington on 7 January 2013

2013 saw some schedule readjustments. In May and June Jetstar cancelled hundreds of domestic flights because of sagging demand on main trunk routes over May and June. A Jetstar spokesman said schedule "optimisation" was done from time to time. "It's a low season over that period so we're probably doing more than normal. It's business as usual, it doesn't signify anything." The spokesman said the cancellations were concentrated on the Auckland-Wellington route where it has most services and most passengers could be rebooked on alternate flights "within hours." "Optimisation means you take a look at market demand and how many flights you've got and you change your schedule accordingly - all airlines do it."

The bait - Jetstar advertising 2012-2014

The 1st of September 2013 saw the suspension of the Queenstown-Wellington service and at the same time it increased its frequency Auckland and Christchurch as it realigned its New Zealand schedule to meet demand. 

Jetstar introduced, albeit for a short time, Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners on the Melbourne-Auckland route on the 26th of February 2014. The Dreamliner were used three times weekly operating the route for a month before redeployment elsewhere. VH-VKA operated the first flights from Melbourne, JQ229 and the return JQ214.

Jetstar's Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on approach to Auckland on 7 March 2014

On the 21st of July 2014 Jetstar suspended its Auckland-Singapore services, the airline’s only long-haul service to New Zealand. The final service from Singapore, JQ216 and return service JQ217, were operated by Airbus 330 VH-EBE. A spokesperson said the route has not performed as the carrier would have liked and capacity could be 'put to better use on other routes.' In 2014 Jetstar also operated a short-lived thrice weekly service between Adelaide and Auckland. The thrice-weekly service started on the 16th of December 2013. The service was cut from the 23rd of August 2014 with Airbus 320 VH-VGP operating the final flights from Auckland, JQ195 and return JQ196. 

Jetstar's white Airbus 330, VH-EBC, departing Auckland for Singapore on 1 April 2014

Wellington received its first Jetstar trans-Tasman services in December 2014. A thrice weekly service between Wellington and Gold Coast began on  the 12th of December with Airbus 320 VH-VGR operating the first flights, JQ167 from Coolangatta and the return JQ168. The following day the Queenstown Gold Coast service was reinstated with three flights per week with Airbus 320 VH-VGY operating the first flights, JQ193 from Coolangatta and the return JQ194Wellington also gained a four times a week service to Melbourne from the 30th of March 2015. Airbus 320 VH-VGR operated JQ164 the first flight from Melbourne and the return JQ165.

The arrival of the reinstated Gold Coast-Queenstown service with Airbus 320 VH-VGY operating  JQ193 from Coolangatta being welcomed to Queenstown on 13 February 2014. Photo : Jetstar NZ Facebook

Jetstar Airbus 320 VH-VGD arrives into Wellington on 15 March 2015

Jetstar Airbus 320 VH-VQE departs Wellington on 15 March 2015

In mid-June 2015 Jetstar announced that it intended to start flights to regional destinations later that year using a fleet of five 50-seat Bombardier Q300s. At the time the announcement was made the airline said it was considering Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier and Palmerston North, Nelson and Invercargill as possible destinations. The airline said its new flights - due to start in December - would bring "low fares competition to monopoly domestic routes around the country." Jetstar is owned by Qantas whose chief executive Alan Joyce said the time was right to bring Jetstar's fares to the regions. "When Jetstar brought low fares to New Zealand's key routes six years ago it completely transformed the market in terms of value and now we'll do the same for regional New Zealand," he said. There had been calls for more choice and lower fares on regional routes," Joyce said. "We're answering that call by launching Jetstar flights to regional New Zealand, making air travel more affordable for people who live outside the main centres and boosting tourism and the economies of these areas." The new regional destinations would connect to the broader Qantas Group network, including both Qantas and Jetstar flying across the Tasman. At the end of August it was announced that Nelson, Napier, Palmerston North and New Plymouth had been chosen as Jetstar's four new regional destinations, with each of them having direct flights to Auckland and Nelson also having flights to Wellington.

Jetstar's planned route map with the planned new services 

2015 also saw Jetstar make its first profit on its domestic service. A Stuff article on the 20th of August reported that New Zealand unit of Jetstar was in the black for the first time. The Jetstar group, posted an operating profit of A$230 million (NZ$255.9m) in the year to June 30. Financial details for Jetstar New Zealand were not disclosed. Jetstar spokesman Luke Enright said the result had been helped by improved customer satisfaction, a marked increase in business customers and improved service reliability… Infometrics economist and aviation analyst Benje Patterson said Jetstar's market share in New Zealand had plateaued. Jetstar carried 15.9 per cent of New Zealand's domestic airline passengers in the June 2015 year, down from 16.2 per cent last year, and from a peak of 17.7 per cent in the 2013 year, he said. "Rather than taking an aggressive market stance they seem to have been working to strengthen their existing operation."

Different .com titles on Jetstar's Airbus 320 VH-VFD on approach to Auckland on 8 February 2014

On the 28th of October 2015 Jetstar introduced a thrice weekly service between Dunedin and Wellington. The new services departed Wellington on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 11.10am with the return service departing Dunedin at 12.55pm. Jetstar head of New Zealand Grant Kerr said the service was a response to requests for choice from businesses and communities, including students and their families keen to fly between the two cities. He described bookings on the service as ''very strong''. He said 150 were on the flight from Dunedin, which left shortly after 1pm. On the sustainability of the service, Mr Kerr said when the airline entered a market, it tended to stimulate growth in those markets. ''I believe we will get support.'' Dunedin Airport chief executive Richard Roberts said yesterday was the first time in more than 15 years a second airline was flying between the two cities. ''Since Jetstar began Auckland-Dunedin services we've seen positive traffic growth on the route,'' Mr Roberts said. He was sure that would also happen between Wellington and Dunedin. The first flights were flown by airbus 320 VH-VGJ flying southbound as JQ221 and the return service JQ222.

Jetstar’s regional services began on the 1st of December 2015 with flights the introduction of flights between Auckland and Napier and Auckland and Nelson. Both the inaugural flights were operated by Bombardier Q300 VH-SBI. The Q300 had positioned to Napier the previous evening. After the aircraft was blessed by local kaumatua Jetstar’s first regional flight departed Napier at 9.00am for Auckland as JQ350, using the callsign Southern Cross. "This is an exciting day for regional airlines in New Zealand," was how Jetstar's head of New Zealand services Grant Kerr put it. "It is a very special day for us and a very special day for Hawke's Bay because to start flying regionally in New Zealand is something we have been looking to do for some time - and now we are." Jetstar's CEO David Hall was also on hand for what he called a historic moment and a timely one, as exactly 10 years ago Jetstar commenced its first international service into New Zealand. "Now we are flying Q300s regionally here as well," he said. "So New Zealand holds a special place in our hearts." He said the passion and determination the Hawke's Bay's business, tourism and political community had voiced for Jetstar to fly to the region had been impressive and it was an important market for the airline to pursue. "We are in it for the long term."

The Q300 later headed to Nelson as JQ371 for Jetstar’s first flight into Nelson. Jetstar's New Zealand corporate communications manager Phil Boeyen said the flight was "fantastic". "[There were] wonderful people on board, everyone had some great bargains, [there were] people who had scored $9 flights." The flight was welcomed by Mayor Rachel Reese, Archdeacon Andy Joseph and Broadgreen Intermediate School's kapa haka group. Boeyen said the school's welcome was brilliant. "The roof soared off... It was a really fantastic welcome to Nelson."

Jetstar's Bombardier Q300 VH-TQM at Nelson on 24 January 2018

Initially three flights a day were operated on both routes using VH-SBI and VH-TQL and VH-TQM. Qantas-owned Eastern Australia Airlines, which had operated the Q300s in Australia for QantasLink for more than 15 years, continued to operate the aircraft on behalf of Jetstar.

In preparation for the second phase of Jetstar’s regional air services expansion set to begin, two further Bombardier Q300s, VH-TQD and VH-TQK, were flown to Auckland during January 2016. The 1st of February 2016 saw the inauguration of the Auckland-New Plymouth, Auckland-Palmerston North and Nelson-Wellington services. VH-TQM operated the first flights to Palmerston  North and VH-SBI the first flights to New Plymouth. 

he first Jetstar Bombardier Q300 arrives at Palmerston North...  VH-TQM did the honours. Photos from the Palmerston North Airport Facebook Page

With the full compliment of aircraft Jetstar offered 27 flights a week on the services from Auckland to Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth and Palmerston North and 21 flights a week from Nelson to Wellington.

The 22nd of March 2016 saw Jetstar introduce its first service from New Zealand to the South Pacific with flights offered between Auckland and Rarotonga. These flights originates from either Sydney or Melbourne enabling Jetstar to offer Australian travellers connecting fares to Rarotonga via Auckland. The first flights were operated by Airbus 320 VH-VGJ. JQ129 departed Auckland on the 22nd and returned as JQ130 in the early hours of the 23rd.

Just as Jetstar was not afraid of establishing new routes, it was also not afraid of cutting unprofitable routes and the four flights a week service between Melbourne and Wellington was withdrawn on the 27th of January 2017 due to a lack of demand.

During winter 2017 Jetstar also cut back its regional schedule between late July and late October. Services between Auckland and New Plymouth were reduced from 27 flights per week to 14, services between Auckland and Palmerston North were reduced from 27 to 22 and services between Wellington and Nelson were reduced from 21 to 14. The Taranaki Daily News reported that a Jetstar spokesperson had said the airline had reduced some of its regional flying between mid-July and the end of October to align capacity with seasonal demand in quieter travel months. "Following a review of off-peak customer demand Jetstar is reducing some regional capacity on a seasonal basis over three months. "During this period Jetstar will operate 28 flights per week on the New Plymouth-Auckland route." The new schedule would see only two return flights daily… The move also comes three weeks after the New Plymouth District Council approved a upgrade to the airport's terminal, which is expected to cost between $21.7 million and $28.7m. However, New Plymouth Airport manager Wayne Wootton said the reduction in flights wouldn't affect the upgrade. "These annual fluctuations in flight schedules have been built into our preparations for the new terminal's design," he said. "Normally airlines reschedule every six months. Jetstar have kept their former schedule for 18 months in New Plymouth and their winter schedule will last for three.

However, flight reductions were to continue in the summer schedule that started on the 29th of October. The airline currently operates a seasonal schedule of 104 return services a week across its five regional routes. This will increase to between 107 and 114 with the new schedule, but with several of its early morning services cut. A Jetstar spokesman said the airline regularly operated seasonal schedules to match seat capacity with travel demand. "We're making some adjustments to our regional schedule to better align our flights to when our customers want to fly," he said. "Jetstar's regional network has been a success story for New Zealand travellers, bringing low fares to areas that had previously lacked competition and choice." Under the current flight schedule, Jetstar operates early morning flights between 6am and 8am out of New Plymouth, Nelson, Napier and Palmerston North. However under the incoming schedule, the earliest flight out of New Plymouth would be 11.45am. Napier would also lose its early morning flight to Auckland with customers set to arrive there at 10am instead of the current 7.35am. Nelson's 6.30am flight to Auckland would also be changed to depart at 10.15am with Palmerston North's first flight also pushed out. The spokesman said the earlier flights had been shifted to later in the day, however the airline was putting on earlier flights out of Auckland for business people travelling to the regions. "New Plymouth is more a leisure market for us so we have the mid-morning and mid-afternoon flights all week with the extra two weekend return services, on Friday and Sunday evenings," he said. "These services are targeted at weekend travellers coming to New Plymouth or locals heading to Auckland."

Jetstar's Bombardier Q300 VH-TQK landing at Auckland on 5 April 2018

Despite these changes Jetstar was continuing to make an impact carrying over 2 million passengers a year on its domestic network employing over 500 New Zealanders.

On the 27th of March 2017 Jetstar reintroduced flights between Wellington and Queenstown for the first time since 2013 with a thrice weekly service. Jetstar Head of New Zealand Daniel Banens said Queenstown was a world-class destination and the airline was delighted to be back on the route. "We've worked closely with Wellington and Queenstown airports to identify customer demand and we're looking forward to providing a low fares option on the route ahead of the 2018 ski season," Banens said. "Queenstown is hugely popular with our customers and has experienced significant passenger growth over the past few years. "We're sure Wellingtonians will welcome having a choice of airline to the southern tourist resort and we also expect the service to be popular with Central Otago travellers visiting the capital for business or events." The reintroduced service was made possible by Jetstar cutting the flights between Wellington and Dunedin that would have normally operated on those days so Queenstown’s gain was Dunedin’s loss.

Further regional cuts came on the 29th of May 2019 with Auckland to New Plymouth flights being cut from 14 to 9. A Jetstar spokesman said the airline closely monitored its markets and seasonally adjusted its schedule to match when customers wanted to fly. "We've reduced some of our regional flying in autumn and winter this year to align our capacity with seasonal demand in quieter travel months." He said in the summer peak travel season Jetstar offered 14 return flights a week between New Plymouth and Auckland, which would continue during the peak school holiday periods between May and September. "Outside the holidays we'll operate a daily return New Plymouth-Auckland service with an additional return service on Friday and Sunday (nine return services a week.)" Jetstar have also reduced flights to Napier, Nelson and Palmerston North over the winter period.

On the same day Jetstar dropped its poorly performing Wellington to Dunedin route in favour of increasing flights between the capital and Queenstown. Jetstar's chief customer officer Catriona Larritt said the airline regularly reviewed its schedule to ensure its frequency aligned with when customers wanted to fly, and Queenstown was a major drawcard for both domestic and international tourists.  "Jetstar re-entered the Wellington-Queenstown route 12 months ago with three services a week and from late October this year we'll double that to six return weekly services," Ms Larritt said. Larritt said Jetstar's Auckland-Dunedin schedule of eight return services a week was unchanged, but she said the Wellington-Dunedin flights had not performed to expectations. "We've been operating on the route for nearly three and half years and we've appreciated the support we've received from local travellers and airports, however the route has not performed as we'd hoped." 

"Low fares forever" - Jetstar Airbus 320 VH-VGF at Dunedin on 2 May 2019

On the 25th of August 2019 Jetstar announced it was axing its regional services in New Zealand at the end of November between Auckland and Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North, as well as Nelson and Wellington… Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans said the decision came about due to an increase in costs and a drop in demand. "We understand there will be disappointment in regional centres at today's announcement," he said. "The New Zealand regional market is facing some headwinds, with softer demand and higher fuel costs and we don't see the outlook changing any time soon. "We have given it a real go. However, despite four years of hard work - including becoming the most on-time of the two major regional airlines and having high customer satisfaction - our regional network continues to be loss-making." 

About 20,000 passengers were booked on Jetstar flights beyond that date. The airline had lost $20 million flying the regional network last year. Jetstar's chief executive flew to Auckland to deliver the bad news and said his airline had given the regional routes a ''red hot'' go. He said there was never a good time to announce scaling back services but had done it today to give time to consult with staff - most of who would be offered jobs in New Zealand - and passengers who could make alternative arrangements. He said given the state of the market and the cost of running the regional operation, there were few prospects of any turnaround in the near future. The airline's jet operation here accounts for 83 per cent of its business. 

On the 14th of October 2019 Jetstar ceased operating its Sydney-Christchurch service citing a lack of demand and competition.

Jetstar’s regional services ended on the 30th of November 2019. On that afternoon VH-SBI operated the final regional service from Nelson to Wellington, JQ395 and the return JQ394. VH-TQL operated the final New Plymouth and Palmerston North services. It flew to New Plymouth as JQ365 before flying back to Auckland as JQ364. It then flew JQ387 to Palmerston North and the return JQ388 to Auckland. VH-TQD operated the final New Plymouth and Nelson services. It operated to  New Plymouth as JQ356 and returned to Auckland as JQ388. It then operated JQ377 to Nelson and the return flight JQ378 from Nelson to Auckland which was final Jetstar Bombardier Q300 flight. 

Lining up at Auckland Airport for the last day's services, Jetstar Bombardier Q300s VH-TQD, VH-TQL VH-SBI VH-TQM.  

Over the four years Jetstar operated the regional services it used six Bombardier Q300s, VH-SBI, -SBW, -TQD, -TQK, -TQL and -TQM.  

Jetstar's Bombardier Q300 VH-SBW never wore the company's colours or titles. It is seen at Auckland on 3 September 2017

Within a few months all service were cut by the Covid-19 pandemic. On the 22nd of March 2020 Jetstar suspended all international flights as well as a significantly reducing domestic services. On the 27th all flights ceased as New Zealand went into lockdown. Jetstar resumed domestic operations on the 1st of July 2020 flying 75 return flights a week across New Zealand, about 60 per cent of its normal domestic schedule. With changing Alert Levels, for the country as a whole and for Auckland, Jetstar’s domestic services ceased again on the 18th of July. Flights resumed two months later on the 17th of September again resuming with up to 75 flights on its six domestic routes, Well packs, which include masks and sanitising wipes, available at the gate and on board. Jetstar Group CEO, Gareth Evans, thanked customers for their patience and support over the past few weeks. “We’re really pleased to get our planes and our people back in the sky, right in time for school holidays so we can help reconnect family and friends across the country,” Mr Evans said. 

The .com has disappeared from the Jetstar titles of Airbus 320 VH-VFV taken at Wellington on 3 January 2022

On the  27th of March 2023 Jetstar launched a new four flights a week service between Auckland and  Brisbane. The service saw a gradual expansion to a daily service with larger Airbus 321s being introduced on the 1st of February 2024 and the schedule increasing to eleven return services per week in April 2024.

Jetstar's Airbus 321 VH-OYC on departure from Auckland on 8 April 2024

Like New Zealand’s other domestic airlines Jetstar gradually bounced back from the effects of the Covid lockdowns. 

In May 2024 it was operating domestic services to five centres; From Auckland 35 flights a week to Christchurch, 7 to Dunedin, 23 to Wellington and 18 to Queenstown. It also operates 14 flights a week between Christchurch and Wellington and 3 flights a week between Wellington and Queenstown.

Internationally it connects Auckland with Melbourne, Sydney, Coolangatta, Brisbane and Rarotonga, Christchurch with Melbourne and Coolangatta, Queenstown with Melbourne, Sydney and Coolangatta and Wellington with Coolangatta.

I am very grateful for the work of Phil Craig and Mike Condon in the AHSNZ Aerolog and Phil's SPANZ publications for completing this post.

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