Trans Tasman airfare war? What airfare war?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 16-Feb-2009 20:40

If you've been following the news over the past few days you'd be aware of some very good bargains for flights between New Zealand and Australia. Some of the advertised prices are so cheap that media have reported they have hit 20 year lows with flights getting down to $300 return including all taxes.

Instead of reporting how cheap prices are some of the media could try asking both Qantas, Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue why prices out of Wellington are significantly higher than out of both Christchurch and Auckland?
Looking at a few random dates it's typically between $120 - $150 more to fly from Wellington to either Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane than what it costs to fly from Auckland or Christchurch. This also doesn't factor in the $25 airport tax at Wellington that must be paid at the airport and is not included in the ticket price unlike Auckland or Christchurch.

We know significant additional competition exists across the Tasman flying in and out of both Auckland and Chrittchurch. Emirates have just launched their new A380's on the Tasman services and Qantas owned Jetstar have also slashed prices to compete. This has meant Air NZ, Qantas and Pacific Blue have have cut many fares significantly to compete. Here in Wellington we're stuck paying significantly more than an Air NZ  or Qantas customers out of either Auckland or Christchurch for the same routes.

Is it really fair that we're not seeing prices come down? Are Qantas, Pacific Blue and Air NZ price gouging customers flying out of Wellington? Is Wellington Airport doing enough to encourage competition?

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Comment by stuartm, on 16-Feb-2009 22:23

I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure that Wellington Airport charges the airlines more than either Auckland or Christchurch. I found out about this when reading an article about Jetstar launching their NZ domestic flights. According to the Stuff article, they "shunned" Wellington due to the airport's high fees. Here's the story:

Comment by James Sleeman, on 17-Feb-2009 00:11

Wellington Airport does charge more. Also I wouldn't be surprised if capacity needs to be reduced when operating on the Tasman routes to/from Wellington due to runway length, typical cross wind, and alternate requirements. Naturally though, I expect that lack of competition is a big factor.

Comment by hairy1, on 17-Feb-2009 08:54

Wellington has some performance limitations (something to do with hills!) so the fact is that you can't get a large aircraft out of Wellington. It is a bit like only being able to take a van across the tasman instead of a bus. The price to operate per passenger is higher the smaller the aircraft.

Author's note by sbiddle, on 17-Feb-2009 09:24

@hairy1 Air NZ use A320's as the mainstay of all Trans Tasman flights from Chch/Wlg/Akl.

The only exceptions to this are a handful of services ex Auckland that do use 747's/777's as these are continuation of flights from the USA.

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at