NZ expansion for Pacific Blue?

Budget airline Pacific Blue is showcasing an aircraft around regional New Zealand airports it could fly to in competition against Air New Zealand.

The Christchurch-based company has started a three-day tour of regional airports with a 104-seat Embraer 190 E-Jet.

General manager Adrian Hamilton-Manns said the aircraft had been used by parent Virgin Blue on domestic Australian routes.

He said the aircraft could be ideal for international regional routes or New Zealand domestic operations.

The National Business Review reported the carrier has in the past few months been in talks with regional airports, including Hamilton, Palmerston North and Rotorua about a second-tier schedule.

Pacific Blue has operated 180-seat Boeing 737-800s on New Zealand domestic trunk routes for the past 18 months.

Mr Hamilton-Manns said there remained other "tempting opportunities' in the market.

He said regional domestic fares in New Zealand remained uncompetitive because there was only one player in the market.

"But in the long run new routes and services must be commercially feasible and sustainable so we are doing our homework." Qantas-owned budget carrier Jetstar is entering the New Zealand market from June, increasing competition at a time when fewer people are flying as economies slow.

Air New Zealand withdrew trans-Tasman services from Hamilton and suspended Dunedin-Sydney flights from April 16 to October 24. It retained its Dunedin-Brisbane service, but the two return flights a week drop to one during the low demand months of May and June.


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