My 19-year-old daughter had been on Grab a Seat and spied an amazing air-travel deal. ' />

I hadn't finished my air shift on Monday when the texts started.
My 19-year-old daughter had been on Grab a Seat and spied an amazing air-travel deal. It confirmed the fact, to my way of thinking, that air travel has never been cheaper.
The offer was Auckland to Los Angeles or Auckland to Hong Kong for $499 return. That's amazing. You would normally pay around $1800 return. Other airlines also offer attractive deals to various locations around the planet.
Jet Star was recently offering flights from Auckland to Osaka in Japan for $344 one way, or flights to Melbourne for $169 one way.
Admittedly, they had restrictions where you had to travel within a few days of the offer becoming available, but they were great deals and a welcome escape from our cold, wintry days.
What I struggle with is that these great deals aren't available all of the time. Last week, I had an urgent call from my wife to come to Auckland. I went online, found that the cheapest air fare I could get from Tauranga to Auckland, one way, on this particular Saturday morning, at short notice was $271. That's right - one way. Wow ... $271. I didn't want to go to Australia, just one way to Auckland.
I considered my options and decided that I would go to Tauranga Airport and see if there were any standby fares. The staff were really helpful but on inquiry I was told the only standby flights out of Tauranga were to Christchurch and you needed to be an Air Points member. There were, however, seats available to Auckland on flights that morning ... but at $271 I had to re-evaluate my options.
Ah, I hear you say, there's always Grab a Seat deals. Well yes there are, but they don't come up that often out of a regional airport like Tauranga and they are usually for a few weeks ahead. On this particular occasion, with such short notice, there were no such deals. The Air New Zealand Grab a Flight deals from Auckland to Tauranga are very good ... I guess it's the price you pay for living in a provincial city.
We are fortunate to have a modern airport with a recently upgraded terminal that now includes a Koru Club and even a baggage carousel. There are plenty of regular flights from Air New Zealand that connect us to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on a daily basis. However, on most occasions it is quite expensive to fly out of Tauranga to those destinations and beyond, compared with flying out of the main centres.
I was talking to someone the other day at a friend's funeral. He had flown from Whangarei to Tauranga, one way, urgent and last minute, and paid $471 one way. It was cheaper to go the Gold Coast and have a few days' accommodation thrown in for the price he had to pay.
I believe our national carrier is a very good airline and it serves us well, but out of the provincial airports of New Zealand I think we could do with a bit of competition.
According to Air NZ's annual results, last year Air NZ carried 5.9million passengers on the domestic network, with a 79.2 per cent load factor. That means that flights left 79.2 per cent full. That's not a bad record.
On the Tauranga-Auckland, Tauranga-Wellington runs, Air NZ operates two aircraft. There's the larger 50-seat Q300 and the smaller Beachcraft 1900 that seat 19 passengers. Break-even point on the Q300 is 30 seats and on the 1900 it's 14, so most of the time the flights are leaving Tauranga in a fairly profitable situation. If there were spare seats you would think they could offer them on a cheaper standby situation - after all, that fare is icing on the cake.
Unfortunately, I don't think that is going to happen.
Flying out of any main centre like Auckland or Wellington, though, is a different story. There regularly seems to be special fare offers between the main centres ... some days as low as $39 one way.
At the time of writing, I have just done a quick Grab a Seat search and found that if you are planning ahead then there are some great one-way fares from Tauranga to Auckland. For instance, if I was wanting to go to Auckland on Saturday, August 27, there's a Grab a Seat deal one way for $83, and there are similar deals available through September as well. So there are deals available.
I guess the secret to the cheap air fares out of Tauranga is plan ahead and hope that you don't have an emergency situation that you are trying to leave our beautiful provincial city for.
Back to the early morning text from my daughter - if you want to Grab a Seat you need to be quick - the $499 return to LA was sold out before I could text her my reply.