Jetstar adds sixth NZ domestic route, bolsters transtasman flights

The Wellington/Dunedin route will begin in October.

Jetstar, the low-cost offshoot of Australian-owned Qantas Airways, will add a sixth domestic route with a new Wellington/Dunedin schedule and bolster its transtasman flights as it looks to win passengers from dominant rival Air New Zealand.

The Wellington/Dunedin route will begin in October and see the airline fly between the capital and Otago's largest city three times a week, Jetstar said in a statement. It will also add capacity to its transtasman routes over the Christmas period, with extra Christchurch and Queenstown flights from Australia and Monday services between Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney.

In June, the discount airline said it planned to expand into at least four regional destinations still to be determined from flying the main trunk routes. It's likely to cherry-pick the most-profitable deals with local airport companies.

Last November Air NZ announced it would abandon seven regional routes, saying they were costing the company up to $1 million a month, in favour of boosting capacity to other regional airports by buying 13 aircraft for $300 million. That led to consumer backlash as it ended operating services to three of its smaller unprofitable destinations, Kaitaia, Whakatane, and Westport, from April. Jetstar has said it has no plans to fly those routes either.

Domestic routes between the major centres, such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, are often discounted but the NZ Airports Association says regions are right to question whether provincial routes are generating excessive profits. In August, the association called on the Commerce Commission to regulate the airline's regional fares, where the national carrier has an effective monopoly, after it announced a 45% uplift in annual profit to $262 million, its third consecutive year of earnings growth.

Air NZ shares fell 0.4% to $2.64, having touched a seven-month low of $2.389 earlier in the month when Jetstar first announced its domestic route plans.