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