A price battle has broken out on the Hawaii route with Air New Zealand cutting some fares to match Hawaiian Airlines around the time the newcomer enters the market in March.

Air New Zealand has just cut standard return fares by up to $800 in its business class cabins and its economy fares are now close to matching the Hawaiian carrier which starts flying on March 14.

Commercial director for House of Travel Brent Thomas said with 30,000 extra seats on the Auckland-Honolulu route, Hawaii was going to be "huge" next year.

"When you've got that extra capacity and a new player coming into the market pricing is pretty important, because not everybody in New Zealand has heard of Hawaiian Airlines and Air New Zealand will want to protect its share of the market with the increase of seats that it wants to grow," he said.


"It's all about share of the market - up until now Air New Zealand has had the lion's share and now we've got a serious competitor coming in and it's going to be great for the New Zealand consumer."

Air New Zealand had dropped its standard economy fares with $30 to $100 off one-way tickets, and $250 to $400 off one-way business class travel, depending on the time of the year. The new fares take effect on or after March 15.

There would be extra savings with sale fares.

"We'd expect ... with Hawaiian coming in we'll see more promotional fares popping up and past history has shown that's very competitive."

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline aimed to be competitive in all the markets it operates.

"Hawaii is a very popular destination for Air New Zealand customers and a key route which we have a long history of serving."

Following Hawaiian's announcement it was starting flights, Air New Zealand said it would add capacity with a third weekly service and the addition of a bigger aircraft during June to September.

Hawaiian has decided to put on a bigger aircraft in response to strong early demand.

Thomas said strong bookings did not appear to be at the expense of other island destinations.

Bookings for next year, particularly to North America, had been strong and had been helped by the strength of the New Zealand dollar.