Air travel prices slashed

Hundreds of dollars are being slashed from the price of international flights.

The airline sale season has begun in earnest, with Air New Zealand offering 25% off the cost of North American flights and other carriers dropping fares by hundreds of dollars.

Travel expos being held this week will offer further discounts, with more than $1000 being dropped from some economy class fares.

New Zealanders spend more on travel during February and March than at any other time of the year, Flight Centre general manager of product David Coombes said.

"We are coming into that real peak season for bookings, so [the airlines] are manoeuvring to make sure that they're getting that share of the revenue.

"Everybody wants share, and there are some amazing prices out there at the moment ... I would say the price points are near enough to as good value as we've seen in the market."

House of Travel retail director Brent Thomas said airlines were responding to a market buoyed by a strong New Zealand dollar and a mediocre summer.

"Let's be honest, the summer this year outside of Central Otago has been pretty rubbish across New Zealand.

"People are saying, hell, I need a holiday; I didn't really feel like I got a good summer holiday. So places like the Cook Islands and Fiji are definitely starting to be booked up."

Despite a still sluggish economy, the numbers of New Zealanders travelling overseas were still strong, with December being a record month for short-term departures.

Traditional holiday destinations such as Australia and the United States remained popular, but Asia had experienced a surge in the number of New Zealand tourists.

Mr Thomas said that was driven in part by budget carriers such as Jetstar and Air Asia X offering very affordable flights to the region.

Air Asia X flights from Christchurch to Kuala Lumpur can cost as little as $330 one way.

"Those fares have brought some really competitive pricing ... people can enjoy a holiday [in Asia] for not too dissimilar prices to what they used to pay to go for a holiday in Australia."

Hot wings

Air NZ: Auckland to LA, March-December Return flights usually about $2240. Now $1720.
Qantas: Auckland to Bangkok, March-August Return flights usually about $1220. Now $1099.
China Southern Airlines: Auckland to Amsterdam, business class. Return flights usually about $5655. Now $4155.


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