Return fares to Hawaii have dipped below $500 as a price war to the islands heats up.

One travel agent is offering return flights on Air New Zealand for $499. The deal from Auckland is being offered at Flight Centre's Travel Expo this weekend and comes a day after rival agent House of Travel advertised return flights to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines for $589.

Intense competition between the two airlines has resulted in fares falling to as little as a quarter of what they were before Hawaiian Airlines entered the New Zealand market nearly six years ago.

The Air New Zealand deal includes a bag and is on selected flights between the end of this month and the end of June. It is $100 below return flights to Australian east coast destinations advertised earlier this week, a flight almost three times the duration.


And although direct comparisons between domestic and international flights are difficult, the Hawaii flights are nearly $200 cheaper than the highest return flight on Air New Zealand between Auckland and Queenstown during the last weekend in February. The cheapest fares then are $366.

Other deals at this weekend's expo include return fares from Auckland to San Francisco for $949, a direct flight on Air New Zealand which this month revised down its half-year profit forecast due in part to softening demand.

Qantas flights from Auckland to Bali — a destination that has surged in popularity with Kiwis during the past 18 months — are $779, although the service would be via Australia.

While Europe fares last year dipped below $1000, Flight Centre is advertising a competitive $1209 from Auckland to Rome on China Southern Airlines which flies via Guangzhou in southern China. Travel for that deal is on selected dates between February 22 to November 15.

London, which can be expensive because of hefty fees and taxes, is advertised at the same price as Amsterdam — $1299, also on China Southern.

Return fares start at $349 for Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne on Virgin Australia, which is boosting its presence on the Tasman following a bust-up with Air New Zealand last year.

Fiji is on sale for $499 for adults and $299 for children, flying on Air New Zealand through to the end of August.

Airlines run specials in the ''early bird'' booking period to get certainty over how full their aircraft will be and travel agents often chip in to help airlines with extremely low promotional fares.


New Zealanders are taking trips overseas in record numbers as air fares come down and the range of destinations increase. In the year to October last year Kiwis took more than three million trips, 175,000 more than the year before.

This is reflected by figures showing global passenger traffic demand rose at a healthy 6.5 per cent last year despite volatile fuel prices, although airlines warn that uncertainty created by Brexit and United States-China trade tensions made this year more difficult to predict.

Flight Centre NZ product general manager Victoria Courtney said the way New Zealanders were travelling was changing. More travellers were using their holidays as a time to disconnect, be in the moment and resist the always-on mentality, and some of the holidays on offer reflected this.

She said travellers were increasingly seeking travel experiences that aligned to their personal expectations – through ecotourism, or choosing hotels and airlines that were environmentally and socially conscious.

Active travel has increased as more travellers want to stay active, be healthy and immerse themselves in a destination while holidaying.