By James Wilkinson
Pacific Blue’s highly anticipated Queenstown flights take off from Sydney for the first time on Saturday morning (Sep 5), breaking what has been a lucrative duopoly over the past decade for Qantas and Air New Zealand.
Pacific Blue lands in Queenstown on September 5
The twice-weekly flights being launched by Virgin Blue’s sister carrier will mean greatly reduced airfares, something that has been hailed as a major victory for the travelling public on both sides of the Tasman.
Airfares as low as $250 each way have rarely been seen on flights between the two cities, but following the increased competition – which has also seen Air New Zealand increase services between Australia and Queenstown – they will become the standard starting price point.
Virgin Blue Group of Airlines CEO Brett Godfrey said airline’s foray into Queenstown would mean it would be the first time a low-cost airline had operated internationally to the city and that meant a new level of affordability for travellers on an ongoing basis.
“Travellers from both sides of ‘the ditch’ have made it clear they want the same access to low fares and the convenience of direct international flights that the people from the major cities often enjoy and our (new flights) go a long way to achieving that,” he said.
“As much as Kiwis enjoy a warm weather holiday in Australia, we know that Aussies love to visit the stunning scenery of Queenstown for adventure and ski holidays or simply to relax, and now they’ll be able to do that at a reasonable price,” Godfrey said.
All major hoteliers have hailed the new flights as a win-win situation particularly for both the leisure and MICE segments.
Heritage Hotels chief operating officer Jeff Shearer said the new flights now meant every major New Zealand destination could now compete with every Australian state in terms of price and value per delegate.
“Like the hotel industry, competition is healthy between airlines and Pacific Blue’s new services will provide another option ensuring the expansion of the trans-Tasman market,” he told SpiceNews.
Like Shearer, Accor Hospitality vice president – New Zealand and Fiji, Paul Richardson, said he was also upbeat about the conference market picking up in Queenstown as a result of the new flights.
“The MICE sector has been depressed for some time, but if the price is right and there is easy access, Queenstown is a destination that is really likely to benefit from new air services from Australia,” he said.
“We are already seeing growth in sales-based incentives and this is a market that would be ideal for Queenstown,” Richardson said.
Accor has been working with Pacific Blue on a number of initiatives since the carrier launched and is involved in the airline’s launch flight on Saturday, by hosting an Australian travel media contingent at the group’s Sofitel Queenstown property.
For more stories, check out SpiceNews on Tuesday, September 8, with live reports from Queenstown.