There are a number of competing airlines that service NZ if you’re flying in from Asia, Europe or North America, though ultimately you’ll still pay a lot for a flight unless you jet in from Australia. NZ’s abundance of year-round activities means that airports are busy most of the time: if you want to fly at a particularly popular time of year (eg over the Christmas period), book well in advance.
The high season for flights into NZ is during summer (December to February), with slightly less of a premium on fares over the shoulder months (October/November and March/April). The low season generally tallies with the winter months (June to August), though this is still a busy time for airlines ferrying ski bunnies and powder hounds.
A number of NZ airports handle international flights, with Auckland receiving most traffic:
New Zealand's own international carrier is Air New Zealand, which flies to runways across Europe, North America, eastern Asia and the Pacific, and has an extensive network across NZ.
Winging-in from Australia, Virgin Australia, Qantas, Jetstar and Air New Zealand are the key players. Air New Zealand also flies in from North America, but you can head south with Air Canada and American Airlines, too.
From Asia and the Pacifc there are myriad options, with direct flights from China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and many Pacific island nations.
An international departure tax of NZ$25 applies when leaving three of NZ's smaller international airports: Hamilton, Rotorua and the sporadically international Palmerston North. At all other airports the tax has been replaced with a NZ$12.50 Passenger Service Charge (PSC), which is included in your ticket price. At Hamilton, Rotorua and Palmerston North, departure tax must be paid separately at the airport before you board your flight (via credit card or cash). For kids under 12 it's NZ$10, and free for kids under two.
Automated online ticket sales work well if you’re doing a simple one-way or return trip on specified dates, but are no substitute for a travel agent with the low-down on special deals, strategies for avoiding layovers and other useful advice.
If you're flying to New Zealand from the other side of the world, RTW tickets can be bargains. They're generally put together by the big airline alliances, and give you a limited period (usually a year) in which to circumnavigate the globe. You can go anywhere the participating airlines go, as long as you stay within the prescribed kilometre extents or number of stops and don't backtrack when flying between continents. Ticket providers include the following:
A Circle Pacific ticket is similar to a RTW ticket but covers a more limited region, using a combination of airlines to connect Australia, New Zealand, North America and Asia, with stopover options in the Pacific islands. As with RTW tickets, there are restrictions on how many stopovers you can take.
For online ticket bookings, including RTW fares, start with the following websites:
AirTreks (www.airtreks.com) A US company with some tasty round-the-world fares.
Cheap Flights (www.cheapflights.com) Global sites (US, Australia/NZ, Spain, Germany, UK/Ireland, France, Canada and Italy) with specials, destination information and flight searches.
Cheapest Flights (www.cheapestflights.co.uk) Cheap worldwide flights from the UK; get in early for the bargains.
Co-operative Travel (www.co-operativetravel.co.uk) International site for affordable holiday packages.
Expedia (www.expedia.com) Microsoft’s travel site; good for USA-related flights.
Flight Centre International (www.flightcentre.com) Respected operator handling direct flights, with sites for NZ, Australia, the UK, the USA, Canada and South Africa.
Roundtheworldflights.com (www.roundtheworldflights.com) Build your own adventure from the UK with up to six stops, including Asia, Australia, NZ and the USA. Good rates in the NZ winter.
STA Travel (www.statravel.com) The full package: flights (including RTW), tours, accommodation and insurance.
Travel Online (www.travelonline.co.nz) Good place to check worldwide flights from NZ.
Travel.com.au (www.travel.com.au) Solid Australian site; look up fares and flights to/from the country.
Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) Global site that allows you to search fares from/to practically anywhere.