Air New Zealand has been left scrambling to explain why Kiwis are charged hundreds - even thousands - of dollars more than British passengers for the same flights.

A customer based in Britain who books online a return economy-class flight from London to Auckland will pay much less than a New Zealand-based traveller who books the same journey in reverse on Air New Zealand's website at the same time.

The price disparity can vary wildly, but a standard round-trip between Auckland and Heathrow via Los Angeles will set a New Zealand-based passenger back $500 more for an economy seat, $1500 more for a SkyCouch upgrade, $2100 more for a premium economy seat and $3000 in business class.

In a written statement, Air New Zealand public affairs manager Tracy Smeaton explained it was currently the low season for people from the Northern Hemisphere travelling here, and New Zealanders would enjoy a comparative price difference during the Northern Hemisphere winter. But a survey of prices on Air New Zealand's website showed the price gaps were consistent all year round.


Smeaton later said: "We are a commercial operation and supply and demand are the basic factors which determine the price of any product."

She said the eurozone crisis also impacted the UK market and Air New Zealand had to price its flights to attract British customers who might be considering closer destinations.

She added that Air New Zealand spent $100 million on promoting the country to foreign tourists - an investment that benefited New Zealanders downstream.

New Zealand-based frequent flyer Andrew Flanagan, who discovered the anomaly when researching fares for his family of four, described the situation as "an absolute farce".

"I thought, 'Holy moly, what are they doing here?' It's ridiculous. Are New Zealanders subsidising the cost of British people coming here?

"New Zealanders go to Air New Zealand because they think the company looks after them. But they are not treating us well."

Flanagan said he would not fly with Air New Zealand again, out of principle. "You often hear about how New Zealand is a small country in the middle of the Pacific and there's extra costs, but we're talking about the same flights."