Tuesday 14 February 2023 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Business, National, Travel
Jetstar which will commence non-stop flight from Sydney on June 29 was initially providing two weekly flights. But a strong booking pattern has encouraged the airline to add a third flight during peak periods.
Three services per week will operate between July 4 and October 24 and in December 2023 and January 2024.
The overnight flight will depart Sydney on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays at 9.30pm arriving in Rarotonga at 7am the same day. The return flights leave Rarotonga at 9am arriving in Sydney at 12.30pm the following day.
Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Mark Brown, yesterday welcomed the news.
“Our continuing journey on the path to economic recovery will be assisted by this additional flight from Australia during peak seasons. My government is committed to doing what we can to help fast-track our economy back to pre-Covid levels and it’s great to see Jetstar assisting in this space by allowing more Aussies, and Cook Islanders living in Australia, the ability to visit with their direct flight from Sydney,” Brown said in a statement.
Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council president Liana Scott says the industry is delighted that an additional direct flight will be added to the current schedule with Jetstar from July onwards.
The frequency of flights makes travel dates decision making much easier and gives options to shorten or lengthen ones stay, says Scott, who is also the general manager of the Muri Beach Club Hotel.
“Australia is a market that really has so much potential with more than 350,000 travelling per year in 2019 to Fiji, and the Cook Islands was only receiving less than 10 per cent of that number so the growth prospects are massive.”
With 30,000 non-stop seats into Rarotonga planned in the first 12 months of Jetstar’s operation, it is nearly double the 16,000 non-stop seats that operated in 2019, says Graeme West, general manager Australasia Cook Islands Tourism.
West said the addition of a third weekly direct service was fantastic news, as it provides the opportunity to grow Australian visitor numbers to the highest number the country has ever seen.
“Our issue in previous years was the lack of frequency (with only one flight per week) and lack of seats. Both of those things are now greatly improved, and we are working hard to fill the flights.”
West said throughout the last year, they kept a conservative amount of advertising running in Australia, designed to secure visitors flying via Auckland, and maintain the destination awareness that they had grown in the previous years.
On December 1, 2022, when the Jetstar non-stop flights were announced, “our marketing increased substantially,” he said.
“(The marketing is) designed to drive visitation onto the non-stops and to secure peripheral bookings via Auckland. Although the non-stop Sydney to Rarotonga flights don’t start until 29 June, it was vital that we were attracting bookings immediately, and this has contributed to the strong booking pattern and ultimately Jetstar’s decision to add a third weekly flight in peak periods.
“We are using a combination of social and digital media, press, radio ads with an associated competition, and video on demand. In addition, we have stories appearing in mainstream press and magazines as a result of journalists visiting the Cook Islands.”
West said they have a broad target market, everything from couples and families wanting holiday homes, to those travellers wanting 3, 4 and 5-star resorts and villas.
“Selling the destination is paramount, as travellers will determine where they want to stay, what they want to do, and what they want to eat while here. That said, our advertising is designed to highlight all these features and options.”
Jetstar’s chief customer officer, Alan McIntyre said: “There’s been so much excitement about the launch of our new direct flights between Australia and the Cook Islands that we’ve decided to add a third return service a week during peak travel periods.”
“Bookings are strong ahead of our inaugural flight from Sydney to Rarotonga on the 29th of June, as families prepare to escape to this tropical paradise during Australia’s cooler months.
“The newest aircraft in our fleet, the A321neo LR, will be used to operate this service.”