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Idealog—in the ideas business

In defence of Jetstar: You get what you pay for

Jetstar offers very cheap flights; Air New Zealand offers a reliable, premium service at a higher cost. The only problem is when our expectations don't match what the airline is providing.

I've flown a few times with Jetstar, and I've been tweeting a bit about the disappointment of travelling with this airline as they haven't gone well.

After thinking about it though, I've decided that I'm not being fair, and that Jetstar is undeserving of the complaints I've been making.

On a Jetstar flight for a business trip, the flight was 45 minutes late, and they lost my bag. On the way back the flight was delayed twice (after we boarded), in total about 60 minutes late. Around the time of the Christchurch earthquake, my son's flight was cancelled, and the next available seat was 9pm on Christmas day.

So, not a good experience. Probably not going to happen to all their passengers all the time, but a pretty bad sample.

I usually fly with Air New Zealand, which is a world class airline. It has lots of planes, lots of crew, and a lot more options. When the earthquake struck, its flights were cancelled too, but Air New Zealand put a 747 on to the AKL-CHC route to help clear the backlog – because it COULD.

Bad things happen to both airlines – weather closes airports, crew get sick, aircraft break down – the difference is that Air New Zealand has more depth, so when things go wrong it can re-route aircraft, call in more crew or whatever.

But Jetstar is a lot cheaper.

And that's the key.

We have a choice. Jetstar could probably provide a better service, by having an extra aircraft and more crew that weren't allocated to the schedule, but just sat waiting to provide cover. Who would pay for that?

Complaining about delays and cancellations from Jetstar is as ungrateful as complaining about the price on Air New Zealand. In fact, looking at it logically, Air New Zealand is always going to be more expensive, but Jetstar sometimes flies on time - so there's only upside to choosing them, sometimes you get your cake and eat it too!

I should also say that when they did lose my bag the ground staff were extremely friendly and helpful and couriered it to my hotel before bedtime, so no real harm done.

So I take it all back. The benefit of having competition on routes helps to keep prices down, we have real choice, and  both airlines deliver what they promise. The only problem comes when our expectations don't match what the airline is selling.

Jetstar offers very cheap flying (we've flown developers to Auckland for less than what it would cost for two on Air New Zealand).

Air New Zealand offers a reliable, premium service at a higher cost.

Our choice.

John Ascroft is chief innovation officer at Jade Software and blogs here


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Comments

This is not necessarily such a clear distinction now - you can purchase very cheap fares from Air New Zealand, and pay for just the service level you want. They introduced this on flights to Australia a few years back, and have “seat only” fares on NZ domestic routes now.

So, there are evidently ways to provide a cheap service, offer flexibility to your customers and not screw up the basics of customer service.

I wouldn't fly on a service that squeezes maintenance and customer service to undercut it's rivals. You're essentially gambling when you do.

And a finer point, I don't think any of the airlines have “standby aircraft” as you discuss above - some have better maintenance and procedures than others, and better access to engineering facilities.

Near enough everyone that you talk to has had a bad experience on Jetstar - as your anecdote reflects. What's your time and energy worth to you? To me, probably more than any minimal fare difference.

I think Jetstar are in a bit of a jam. If they are honest with their customers and create realistic expectations of their service customers will realise they don't offer value when compared to seat only options with Air NZ etc. So they continue to act like a quality airline who's competitive advantage is discounted pricing.

Wait until you get to the UK and experience the 'you get what you pay for' which is Ryanair. It's a bus with wings, right down to the awful navy on yellow branding which is nausea inducing on the plane. And they charge you extra for *everything*. But they do cater for people that might not go somewhere otherwise. I don't see Jetstar as competing with Air NZ. If anything, it's competing with buses.

NZ is in it's biggest airline pricing war and that is thanks to Jetstar so remember that! Air NZ is only reacting to competition…

For crying out loud fellow people with opinions, please learn how to spell its/it's.
It's a wonderful thing to have the competition created by Jetstar, which saves its passengers money.

I agree with Joe in that if Jetstar created realistic expectations then people would take that on board when paying for their cheaper seats. When you are given all the pros and cons you can make a decision based on the facts in front of you. If the plane is delayed you can say to yourself “Oh well, I knew that might happen so good job I brought a good book with me”.

For me the decision is simple:

A/ do I want to get where I am going on time, comfortable, and with all my stuff delivered at the other end,

or

B/ do I have a day (or couple of days) available to waste after my flights is delayed / stuff is lost / flight is turned back etc.

The answer, A. I can't afford the risk.

I remember during the ash cloud saga (when Air NZ flew, but Jet star didn't) I showed up to my Jetstar flight, and they hadn't bothered to call or email passengers to inform them all flights were cancelled! I had to find out in the terminal when it was far too late to get a flight to Sydney that day. That was my first/last flight with Jetstar..

Good article!

Air New Zealand really does suck

paid $700 for a recent wellington-invercargill flight (the high price was because of a family emergency) yet air new zealand doesnt provide - all i got was a small biscuit, a 50ml punnet of water and a cup of lukewarm coffee….both legs. what really crappy service, and for $700 i could have flown to aussie and back and got a muffin and muesli brekkie with comlimentary coffee (unlimited refills) as i did on a return wellington - brisbane flight in 2008. Air New Zlaand has really gone to the dogs over the last 5 years. Jetstar? ive heard 1001 horror stories about so i est steer clear. Qantas for my next aussie trip please.


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