Airfare deals including return fares to Europe for under $1100 and 7-night Mediterranean cruise for $565.

Cut-throat competition between airlines and the growing range of holiday packages are pushing prices down for overseas travel in what one travel expert described as a "consumer dream".

Flight Centre's travel expo in Auckland this weekend has airfare deals including return fares to Europe for under $1100, Hawaii and Bali for under $800.

The growing range of cruises has resulted in deals for just over $80 a night per person for a seven-night voyage around the Mediterranean.


This weekend's deals follow a $799 Bali airfare and accommodation package from helloworld for next winter.

Sean Berenson, Flight Centre's NZ general manager of product said with 28 airlines serving this country, competition was hot.

"It's the most fierce the competition has been. There is a certain amount of money that is spent on travel in a certain year and the carriers want to get their part of it," he said.

Bali fares were $1100 to $1300 two years ago but Air New Zealand's decision to extend its winter season and add capacity with more than 1500 seats available per week each way at peak times had helped push down fares.

Hawaiian Airlines was expanding its service between Auckland and Honolulu from March from three to five return services a week as Air New Zealand also significantly boosts capacity on the route and this intense competition was being reflected in the sub-$800 fares.

"It's a consumer's dream," said Berenson.

The travel industry is well into its "early bird" booking season for selling holidays over the New Zealand summer and this had been the strongest yet for his firm.

One of the wettest winters on record had some small role encouraging travellers to book.


"But it's also one of the strongest European winters we've seen. Kiwis want to see a different kind of Christmas.

Figures show air fares are a fraction of what they were 40 years ago. This was due to improved aircraft efficiency, stable fuel prices over the past two years and the inbound tourism boom, which encourages airlines to put on services to New Zealand.

Cut-price air fares to Europe are on sale as airlines compete hard. Photo / Grant Bradley
Cut-price air fares to Europe are on sale as airlines compete hard. Photo / Grant Bradley

In 1983 an economy-class return fare to Los Angeles was $2196 or close to $5000 when adjusted for inflation. Fares to LA from Auckland on sale this weekend are $979 from October to March on Air NZ.

Travelling in premium cabins, particularly business class, is gaining in popularity, said Berenson.

Business class return fares between Auckland and Amsterdam aboard Qatar would be on offer over the weekend for below $6000.

New Zealand is one of the fastest growing cruise markets in the world and there were a growing range of packages available.

Travellers can book a 7-night cruise for $565 on board MSC Meraviglia - a two-year-old megaship - sailing around Italy, France and Spain for as low as $81 per person.

A 10-night Great Barrier Reef cruise is on sale for the school holidays for as low as $94.90 per night, family share.

"All markers we have seen would suggest cruising is a burgeoning market and the increase in ships, cabin availability and itineraries tell us we're in for some significant growth in traveller numbers over the next five years," said Berenson.

Cruise holidays were increasingly appealing to families and the solo travel market, particularly with our women.

"Many operators have wised up to this and cruise liners like Cunard have more single occupancy cabins and offer events geared toward single cruises so that it's easy to make new friends," he said.

This weekend's expo follows the aviation fuel shortage caused by Refining NZ's ruptured pipeline to Auckland. Berenson said while it had disrupted travel for some in the past week he didn't think there would be nervousness among travellers now.

"People at the expo will be looking in to the future."