Early booking recommended to cut travel costs

Stuart McLauchlan.
Stuart McLauchlan.
Dunedin International Airport chairman Stuart McLauchlan is one of Dunedin's most travelled businessmen and he has a tip for reducing the costs of travel from the city - book early.

Last-minute flights were always expensive, he said from Auckland International Airport on the way to a meeting in Sydney.

Air New Zealand's vastly improved profit for the year ended June 30 was greeted with dismay from some regions, believing the profit came on the back of price-gouging from the airline.

Prime Minister John Key waded into the debate saying he had directly raised the issue of high regional air fares with the national carrier's chief executive Christopher Luxton.

''I've made it clear I think Air NZ needs to continue the work it's doing while making sure it reduces prices to the regions if it can. Because in the end, we always know they're likely to have a more monopoly-type position in those areas.''

Mr Key wanted the airline to ensure it continued to deliver fair pricing to the regions.

The New Zealand Airports Association welcomed Air NZ's commercial success but chief executive Kevin Ward said the regions were right to question whether provincial routes were generating excessive profits.

''Making a profit is a good thing for the airline's ongoing investment, innovation, reliability and promotion of New Zealand. But very high air fares have a choking effect on regional economies, business connections, tourism and social links,'' he said.

Dunedin recently lost a direct Auckland-Dunedin flight, meaning travellers wanting to leave late from Auckland needed to take two flights to return home after a day of business.

Mr McLauchlan said the route was losing money and was not commercially viable. Air NZ travelled to Dunedin to share all information and discuss how the route could be made to work more effectively.

''That route is safe now and there is a commitment to get the extra flight back when possible.''

Smaller airlines had tried flights between Dunedin and Queenstown and Oamaru and Christchurch but they had not worked, he said. There was not the volume of customers and that was reflected in the pricing.

''Dunedin people are always grumbling about the costs but I travel regularly for meetings and as soon as I know I have a meeting, I book a seat as early as I can. The average fare is much lower than it was. Ten years ago, it cost $1000 to get to Auckland. Now, it can be done for $400 to $500, sometimes less on special deals.''

The airport company's engagement with Air NZ was the best it had ever been, Mr McLauchlan said.

The airline operated on a no-surprise basis and had worked hard to stabilise the flight schedules to and from the city. Air NZ was following best business practice, as should all businesses, he said.

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