PACK YOUR BAGS

Ex­tra low Lon­don air­faires

Weekend Herald - - Front Page - Grant Bradley

Flight Cen­tre has fired the lat­est shot in the air­fare war, with Air New Zealand re­turn flights to Lon­don drop­ping be­low $1300.

The agent says its $1299 fare is the cheap­est ever for Air NZ flights to Lon­don — tra­di­tion­ally more ex­pen­sive than other Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions to fly into be­cause of high taxes.

And while fares dropped to be­low $1000 on Philip­pine Air­lines to Lon­don ear­lier this year, the flight was in sev­eral sec­tors and Air New Zealand is re­garded as a more pre­mium car­rier fly­ing the quick­est route to the Bri­tish cap­i­tal on more mod­ern planes.

Other pre­mium car­ri­ers in­clud­ing Cathay Pa­cific, Qatar and Emi­rates have been of­fer­ing fares of less than $1500 for flights to Europe this year in an in­ten­si­fy­ing bat­tle.

House of Travel got this week’s price skir­mish started with $1649 fares on Mon­day, and hel­loworld fol­lowed with a $1399 re­turn to Lon­don and Manch­ester the next day.

The Flight Cen­tre fares from Auck­land, Welling­ton or Christchurch are on sale un­til Novem­ber 17 for travel be­tween March 5 and June 19.

Flight Cen­tre NZ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor David Coombes said the fares were ev­i­dence of an ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. “This cur­rent level of com­pe­ti­tion is un­prece­dented and we can only ad­vise that Ki­wis take ad­van­tage of this in­cred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place while it lasts.”

He said it was un­usual for Air New Zealand to of­fer such heav­ily dis­counted seats on the Lon­don route. He said there were “plenty” of seats in the deal.

“My in­ter­pre­ta­tion is that the ex­cess ca­pac­ity is start­ing to im­pact fur­ther and wider.” Not long ago Air New Zealand fares would have been dou­ble to­day’s deal.

It’s not just air­lines go­ing toe to toe; agents also take a hit on such heav­ily dis­counted fares.

Coombes said that the rel­a­tively high New Zealand dol­lar ver­sus the Bri­tish pound had helped boost the num­ber of Ki­wis fly­ing to Bri­tain. So far this year more than 87,000 New Zealan­ders had made the trip.

Dur­ing the last 18 months the num­ber of air­lines fly­ing long-haul ser­vices had soared out of Auck­land through the Mid­dle East, Asia and dur­ing sum­mer, via the United States. This was push­ing down prices.

While oil prices have crept up re­cently, they are still half of what they have been dur­ing spikes in the last 10 years and air­craft are more ef­fi­cient, mean­ing air­lines have more ca­pa­bil­ity to ab­sorb fuel-price rises.

Flight Cen­tre’s fares to­day are in econ­omy rather than pre­mium cab­ins, al­though Coombes said “watch this space”.

Flight Cen­tre says it’s un­usual for Air New Zealand to of­fer such heav­ily dis­counted seats on the Lon­don route.

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