By CHRIS DANIELS
House of Travel has developed a new airfare and travel website it claims is a world first.
The new site allows travellers to compare prices across all 17 airlines flying the Tasman, across the South Pacific and within New Zealand.
It says the site is "truly independent" with no airline given special treatment or even allowed to advertise on it. It is restricted to short-haul travel - within New Zealand, to Australia and the South Pacific. House of Travel says this site is different from other travel sites, because it "scrapes" all the airlines' websites, gathering fares and schedules, while also using the travel agent's centralised computer system.
Some of the lesser known airlines that may only fly daily or less often to Australia, such as Lan (formerly Lan Chile) and Aerolineas Argentinas, are likely to be the big winners from the new website.
Since these airlines do not advertise widely here, many people are not aware they fly the Tasman, or that their fares are sometimes the cheapest. House of Travel hopes to snare people now using the individual airlines' websites to buy airfares by letting them book across many airlines - which may mean a traveller to Sydney would fly there on Air NZ, but back on Emirates, for example.
Accommodation and travel insurance can also be bought through the site, with rental car bookings available soon.
Commercial director Tony Moffatt said the company did not really know if the new site would mean fewer people going into its travel agency stores.
It was not trying to "shunt people" on to its cheaper website, as other travel agencies overseas had tried to do. Those in the shops had a financial interest in the site doing well, so should have no problem encouraging travellers to book online.
International travel website Zuji - which is owned by a group of airlines - is due to start in New Zealand later this year. It should allow long-haul travel to be booked online, but it does not "scrape" airline websites as the House of Travel does, using only a central booking system.