Virgin Blue and Air New Zealand have promised to increase flights on a number of trans-Tasman routes as a sweetener to their proposed alliance. The courting couple also guarantee that services between the two countries won't be reduced below current levels.
Extra seating will be added on six routes by ten percent within three years, and by fifteen percent within five. Routes include Sydney-Wellington and Brisbane-Auckland.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released a draft determination rejecting the deal in September. More cynical observers may be inclined to think, as the ACCC does, that if the two carriers share routes and passengers, there'll be a real threat of higher prices and lower flight numbers.
Canberra Airport's managing director, Stephen Byron, is not one of the the cynics. He urged the consumer watchdog to reverse their decision, stating the deal would not pose a risk to competition. Canberra Airport does not currently have a direct route to any New Zealand centre, and a succesful deal may see one created.
Virgin Blue have stated they’ll reduce flights to NZ if they cannot manage to partner up, perhaps removing trips south of the border altogether. This would terminate Canberra’s best chance of a direct route across the Tasman.
New Zealand's Wellington and Auckland airports haven't shared Byron’s enthusiasm until now. They were vocal critics of the partnership before it was rejected. After the latest guarantees from Virgin and Air New Zealand to maintain prices and increase flights, however, they've removed their opposition.
With the newly found approval from two of the partnership’s biggest critics, there’s a far better chance the alliance will be greenlit by year’s end.