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'Book now': Flights sell out as the travel bug hits Kiwis

Author
Miriam Burrell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 2 Apr 2022, 1:44pm
Air New Zealand flights to Sydney and Fiji are selling out quickly this month. (Photo / Getty Images)
Air New Zealand flights to Sydney and Fiji are selling out quickly this month. (Photo / Getty Images)

'Book now': Flights sell out as the travel bug hits Kiwis

Author
Miriam Burrell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 2 Apr 2022, 1:44pm

Flights to popular destinations such as Sydney and Fiji are rapidly selling out as New Zealanders secure their long-awaited holidays, OEs and trips to see family and friends. 

Demand is skyrocketing as New Zealand moves through a phased re-opening of the border and MIQ requirements are scrapped for most travellers and New Zealanders returning home. 

While travel agents have reported being "overwhelmed" with bookings in recent weeks, a smaller pool of carriers has meant flights appear to be pricey and scarce this month. 

House of Travel chief operating officer Brent Thomas said the outbound market had "come back with a vengeance" in the past four to six weeks, and demand is expected to continue as Kiwis start to plan winter getaways to warmer climates. 

"There's been pent-up demand for two years. In fact, a lot of people haven't been able to travel for three to four years because they might have been planning in 2018 and 2019 to go in 2020 and those travels got curtailed." 

Air New Zealand flights to Sydney this month are booking out fast and will set travellers back around $700. One flight on April 27 is priced at $1044. Prices drop to around $240 next month. 

The websites states there are no seats available on any flights between April 11 and 16, or between April 22 and 26. 

It's a similar story for Air New Zealand flights to Fiji - a destination proving to be "incredibly" popular among families, along with the Cook Islands, Thomas said. 

Most dates in April are already booked out, and seats left are going for between $200 and $400. 

"As those planes fill up, they're certainly not going to be shy in putting those prices up and what we need is competition, because ultimately competition will bring pricing back to what is more appropriate. 

"If we've only got one or two carriers, capacity gets filled quite quickly and they will yield margin on it." 

Thomas said Europe and the UK are popular destinations as well. 

"There's certainly going to be a significant number of people who will head overseas for their OE. Those people have had their plans derailed for the last two years so we'll definitely see a lot of young people heading overseas and traditionally that's to Australia and the UK." 

But because of a lack of international carriers operating in New Zealand currently, there are limited flight and stopover options to the northern hemisphere at a reasonable price. 

While Air New Zealand flights to London remain similar to pre-Covid prices (around $1100 to $1500), Singapore Airlines is charging about $1000 more, and Emirates is offering two stopovers instead of one. 

Cheaper options such as Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines and China Southern are nowhere to be seen. 

There was an air capacity issue with a limited number of carriers coming into New Zealand currently, Thomas said, and more were not expected until later this year. 

"Capacity is going to become an issue later this year, so if people are thinking of a holiday in the next six months they should start booking now. 

"It does take some time for an airline to get a crew back on board, but Air New Zealand, Qantas, Jetstar will respond for short-haul travel to Australia and the islands as demand comes in. 

"It will certainly increase as Australians can travel to New Zealand more freely." 

Thomas said pre-departure and post-arrival testing had to be scrapped in order to save New Zealand's tourism and export demands. 

"If New Zealand doesn't move away from that we will be left off the world scene for tourism and that's to the detriment of the tourism sector, but also from an exporting point of view. 

"To bring [exporting] back in you need passengers coming back to make it viable for the carriers." 

Tourists will choose to visit Australia instead, Thomas said, because pre-departure rapid antigen test are being scrapped on April 17. 

"Minister Nash and the Prime Minister need to understand the value of tourism to New Zealand. It's about the ability to export as well, and we need those aircraft to come back." 

He said testing requirements were prohibiting New Zealand's recovery.