Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan says the launch of new trans-Tasman services including flights from Christchurch will be the airline's priority ahead of extra New Zealand domestic carriage over the next 24 months.
The airline yesterday said New Zealand domestic passenger numbers had passed the million mark since it began flying between the three main centres and Queenstown in June 2009.
In terms of trans-Tasman work, Jetstar could introduce more services in 2010 or 2011 depending on its group strategy, Buchanan said.
Jetstar has Christchurch as its main hub and staff base. The airline runs four daily trans-Tasman services from Christchurch, and two a day to Australia from Auckland.
"We're looking at a whole bunch of [potential] operations that we'd love to start, expanding more into Auckland, potentially more Christchurch, we're looking at Queenstown – we're looking at that as the next growth opportunity," he said.
"That [trans-Tasman] is a higher priority at the moment, then obviously further domestic expansion is on the cards. We may do both – we may do half an aircraft for domestic and half an aircraft for trans-Tasman."
In terms of the timing of new services, it would be based on where 10 new narrow-bodied Airbus A320s were deployed by the group as they arrived by the end of the year, he said. The wider airline also had two more wide-bodied Airbus A330s to arrive.
"New Zealand will definitely get some more capacity if not this year, then most likely next year."
The airline has been flying across the Tasman since December 2005.
Buchanan said on the domestic front the airline was likely to reach the two million mark in less than the 10 months it had taken to register the first million.
Jetstar replaced its parent, Qantas, on the domestic network and despite niggles in on- time performance and cancellations, particularly in its first month of operation, had maintained a high load factor on the internal New Zealand routes, he said.
"It [the 10-month million mark] has been ahead of our expectations – it's about two months ahead of expectations," Buchanan said.
"We weren't expecting the loads to have been as strong as they have been ... they're one of the highest load factors we've seen in a startup year in any part of our network."
Load factors had been running in the mid to high 80 per cent levels for quite some time, he said.
"The on-time performance has also been incredibly strong, post that initial startup period. We've been running high 80s even into the 90s in some months, which is one of the best performing part of the [Jetstar] network."
In January, Jetstar confirmed an alliance with Malaysia's AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines on budget airline initiatives. Buchanan said Air Asia group was still looking at expansion within the wider region including the possibility of services into New Zealand ports.
"I'm sure they will. I'm sure they want to expand the Kuala Lumpur hub and they want to serve multiple different destinations."