Cheap flights for rugby-averse

By Andre Hueber


The World Cup is coming but the special deals are here, as airlines look to fill the planes heading out of New Zealand after they bring rugby fans south.

If you're happy to miss the footy, you can get a return trip to London for as little as $1495 (Royal Brunei) or to Los Angeles for $1375 (Virgin Australia).

Flight Centre airline contracting manager James Brooker said airlines had monitored passenger numbers and waited until now before offering the deals, which would appeal to customers who weren't into rugby, to tourists whose teams dropped out early and to those keen to take a break between games.

The fact New Zealand's school holidays were two weeks later than usual was adding to the windfall for travellers. Brooker said that meant they wouldn't coincide with Australia's school holidays, which meant less competition and lower prices for airfares and accommodation in the South Pacific.

STA Travel general manager Andrew Gay said airfares to Europe during the World Cup had been set relatively high 12 months ago on the basis that everyone felt the planes would be full - but had dropped after a reality check. But he said it would be difficult to convince his core market of 18 to 30-year-olds to travel, as it was the first time this type of event was being held in their backyard.

"Every indication we've had is that they are totally embracing it and choosing to stay put."

House of Travel communications manager Carly Morris said outbound deals during the rugby would be released in the lead-up to the event. Loadings on airlines changed constantly and where seats were available, "fantastic" fares would be released.

"We've found New Zealanders are prepared to travel on a whim if the price is right."

The latest deal, released today, is from Air New Zealand, which has two-for one flights to Vancouver. The flights cost $2600, not including tax, for two people for travel between October 5 and November 18 and will be for sale between today and August 27. "We haven't seen deals this low for around two and half years," Morris said.

AUT head of tourism and events Michael Lueck said many people, particularly those of Asian, North American and European descent, would be dreading the Rugby World Cup.

"Lots couldn't care less and are tired of hearing about it. Quite a few will be trying to escape and that's the crowd airlines are trying to target."

- The Aucklander

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