Tasman flights boosted

Jetstar has added a new transtasman flight and will fly Australians directly into Queenstown seven days a week, just days after a new airline alliance between Qantas and Emirates opened the resort to tourists from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Jetstar Australia and New Zealand chief executive David Hall told the Otago Daily Times yesterday the airline had scheduled a new permanent Saturday Sydney-Queenstown return service starting on August 24.

It would bring the number of permanent Jetstar transtasman flights to Queenstown to seven services a week - four from Melbourne and three from Sydney.

''This new service will operate year-round, providing a nice boost for tourism and hospitality industries in and around Queenstown,'' Jetstar said.

The Melbourne-based Qantas subsidiary made a small reduction in frequency on its Auckland-Queenstown route for July and August to ensure its on-time performance was not impacted as it was last year.

''During winter we are repatterning our seven weekly transtasman Queenstown flights to reduce the risk of delays caused by adverse weather conditions.

''For July and August these international Queenstown sectors will not be linked to our domestic schedule. This repatterning will underpin on-time performance during winter across our NZ domestic network.''

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd said the additional service was welcome, especially because it was year-round, as opposed to seasonal.

''I certainly believe our spring and autumn periods provide excellent opportunities for Australians to visit Queenstown and are areas perhaps underserviced by airline connectivity, so having not only the high seasons but those shoulder seasons operating is really positive.''

Mr Budd could not comment on whether Christchurch was being increasingly sidelined by airlines - his focus was on Queenstown.

''Airlines make decisions to add and reduce services fairly frequently as demand or trends change and the only thing I can reinforce is growth in direct services to Queenstown is based on a combination of demand created by marketing and the experience people have here.''

Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult said the bigger airline picture needed to be looked at, because 85% of international visitors to the South Island came through Christchurch Airport.

As a Queenstown resident, Mr Boult said he was delighted resort arrivals were increasing, but it was not entirely at the expense of Christchurch.

''The importance of Christchurch Airport to Queenstown is often overlooked. Not all people coming to Queenstown travel there by aeroplane. Lots of people fly into Christchurch and pick up rental cars, campervans and get on coaches to Queenstown.

Mr Boult said not all Australians wanted to go to Queenstown and transtasman numbers for Christchurch over summer had been the strongest since the earthquake. The common complaint over summer was about the lack of seats into and out of Christchurch.

The lack of accommodation, not the earthquake aftermath, was putting visitors off the Garden City, he said.

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