A Brazilian-made 104-seat Pacific Blue branded Embraer 190 E-Jet, one of Virgin Blue Group's newest aircraft, will touch down around New Zealand this week as part of a tour to road test the aircraft in that country, familiarize Pacific Blue staff with the jet and gauge feedback on suitability for potential operations.
Pacific Blue has been operating its 180-seat Boeing 737-800 jets on the main trunk domestic routes in New Zealand for nearly 18 months and said there remained "other tempting opportunities to introduce further competition."
The airline's General Manager Commercial, Adrian Hamilton-Manns, said the popular Embraer E-Jets, which have flown successfully on Virgin Blue domestic routes in Australia for two years, could be an ideal fit for international regional routes or New Zealand domestic operations.
"We're committed to developing our New Zealand presence and this week's E-Jet tour of the country will enable Pacific Blue to gain valuable feedback from airports as well as the tourism and business communities," Mr Hamilton-Manns said.
"Pacific Blue is proud that our entry to the New Zealand domestic market has at last brought real competition and driven down the cost of New Zealand domestic travel from prohibitive fare levels in years gone by. The market has changed substantially as our domestic competitor airlines have been forced to drop prices and change business models with Jetstar entering and Qantas exiting.
"However there's still no doubt that regional domestic fares remain uncompetitive – there's only one player in the market – so we wouldn't rule anything out," he added.
"The E-Jet tour is a chance for the local aviation and tourism industry to see this very popular passenger jet up close. Later we'll be discussing possibilities and opportunities with airports, business and tourism communities.
"The E-Jet is a super aircraft, which has proven extremely popular with air travelers in many parts of the world. Right now we are enthusiastic about its operational suitability, but as always, new routes and services must in the long run be commercially feasible and sustainable, so we are also doing our homework in that regard," he said.
The twin-engined Embraer 190 E-Jet offers a spacious two-two configuration with leather seats. The aircraft is capable of flying to all domestic and international airports in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific currently offered on Pacific Blue's network.
The jet arrived in Christchurch from Pago Pago and was on display at Wellington Airport before flying to Auckland. The Brazilian plane will also be visiting Hamilton and Palmerston North airports and on Friday it will touch down at Dunedin and Invercargill airports.