Who's really misleading the NZ public?
Who's really misleading the NZ public?
Friday 9 May 2008: Pacific Blue and Virgin Blue have described as hypocrisy a media statement released by Air New Zealand yesterday (Thursday 8 May 2008), saying the release is evidence the legacy carrier is rattled by the fresh new competition Pacific Blue has introduced into the New Zealand domestic market.
In a letter sent to the editor of the Stuff website today after it published an article based on the Air New Zealand statement, Pacific Blue CEO John Bartlett said “What a bunch of “wusses” and cry babies. Their approach seems to be that “if you can't beat ‘em, whinge at them.”
Pacific Blue said that while it was more interested in keeping the air fair than Air New Zealand's hot air, it couldn’t resist responding.
“It's laughable to see Air New Zealand now bullying in a clumsy attempt to position itself as the country's consumer champion airline,” noted Mr Bartlett. “Everyone in New Zealand knows the arrogant pricing that's gone on here for years. They've had ample opportunity to change but done nothing previously, exhibited no consumer champion traits until being embarrassed and forced into dropping their fares when competition entered the market.”
“The day our team flew Christchurch-Wellington in August 2007 to announce our $59 launch fares on this route, we bought tickets on Air New Zealand for $563 return, or around $281 one-way. While the staff onboard were wonderful and we enjoyed each way the half a cup of still water and one boiled sweetie, we were seriously gob smacked and puzzled about which cost the extra $200 - the water or the sweeties?”
Mr Bartlett said that surely the responsibility of any national carrier, especially one largely owned by the Government, is to serve the people and the country well in helping to stimulate travel and therefore economic stimulus.
“Prior to Pacific Blue launching services in the NZ domestic market, all we saw was a captive audience of air travellers who had been paying too much for too long. New Zealand air travellers historically have been well and truly fleeced by Air New Zealand.”
The airline said that Air New Zealand drove Kiwi International out of the market and that it was now trying to “whinge Pacific Blue out of the market.”
“But that only makes us keener to deliver on our commitment to the New Zealand travelling public,” Mr Bartlett said.
“Our attitude is, we're small, we’re new and we’re here to stay. We wanted to be a catalyst, we're very pleased for all the New Zealanders who can finally afford to fly and we’re only too happy that Air New Zealand is learning from our example.”
In yesterday’s statement, Air New Zealand made several allegations against Pacific Blue, including that it had:
“quietly increased” domestic New Zealand
been selling seats on flights it will not be operating because it had not loaded new schedule information online
was misleading customers of the true cost of purchasing fares via its website.
On the first point, Pacific Blue noted that it was strange that, for a company paying such close attention to its operations, Air New Zealand obviously had not read a 29 April media release which announced the airline group was reluctantly being forced to increase fares following the continued and unprecedented increase in jet fuel prices.
The release stated that Virgin Blue one-way Australian domestic fares would increase between AUD$5-$10, based upon flight sector length and that Pacific Blue Trans-Tasman and short haul international fares would increase between $5-$15. It also stated that New Zealand domestic fares were under review. This announcement received considerable media attention in New Zealand.
“The fact is – after flagging it in the media some weeks earlier – we have reluctantly raised some but not all fares by between $4 to $10 due to extreme increases in fuel costs, and there's no secret about that,” Mr Bartlett said.
Pacific Blue said that on the accusation that its fares are now higher, Air New Zealand was also not right. It noted that the majority of Pacific Blue domestic fares across the board are still considerably cheaper than Air New Zealand's right up to its very highest fare of $299 on the Auckland-Dunedin route compared to their highest of $469 on the same route. Pacific Blue also offers domestic sale fares, which have been as low as $29, along with its Mid-Week Mini product from $55, and new special promotion fares from $58.
“As for our domestic schedule… what a cheap shot!” said Mr Bartlett. “It was updated in the GDS and we were in the process of updating the domestic schedule on our web site. This has now been done.” The airline would be contacting any Guests who may have booked after 1 July on that particular Auckland-Wellington service. In accordance with industry practice that even Air New Zealand complies with, where a Guest has been inconvenienced, they would be offered alternate travel arrangements or a full refund or a credit flight if they prefer.
“We can’t help but wonder why if Air New Zealand felt so strongly about these issues it didn’t think to forward the allegation to the New Zealand Commerce Commission, instead of the media?” Mr Bartlett concluded. “Could it be that it is considerably easier to put out a frivolous and spurious press release? Or was it because, Air New Zealand forgot it doesn’t have too much of a reputation at the New Zealand Commerce Commission, being of course the only airline in the country to have ever have been convicted and then fined $600,000 for misleading New Zealand consumers?”
About Pacific Blue, Polynesian Blue, and Virgin Blue Airlines
Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue, along with Australian domestic airline Virgin Blue, operate a fleet of 63 modern Boeing 737 and Embraer E-Jet aircraft flying to 22 Australian and eight international destinations including New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands.