Australia and New Zealand Airfares: Cheap Flights between them

I was just asked to do the travel agent thing again for a friend so I thought I would add a quick run-down on the local cheap flights scene in Australia / New Zealand. With only limited operators in the market I usually just go direct to the companies websites and compare prices. I find the large international sites just don’t seem to get the Australian/NZ airfares right! I’ve listed the 3 main airlines at the end of this post.

Flights from New Zealand to East Coast Australia

On the trans-Tasman route between East Coast Australian and New Zealand the these are the main airports, which will give you the cheapest airfares and the best choice of flights:

  • Auckland
  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Brisbane
  • Sydney
  • Melbourne

The price of tickets are usually identical, or close, to for any flight from NZ to any of these Australian cities – you may save some backtracking by entering one city and leaving from another. There is now rarely cheaper to buy a return ticket rather than 2 one-way tickets.

Flight time is between 3 and 4 hours depending on flight direction and wind speed and route.

Of the 3 NZ centres Wellington has the least number of flight options because the size of its runway limits the size of jets that can land.

Additional taxes are significant but airlines are now forced to disclose these. Sydney has the highest taxes of the Australian Eastern cities. All Australian taxes are included in the final ticket price.

There is a NZ airport departure tax which is either $25 or $30 per adult, depending on departure airport. This tax is never included in airfares and has to be paid at the airport on departure (cash/debit/credit cards) and a sticker issued. If you purchase a ticket through a New Zealand agent they may include the tax and you should then get the departure tax sticker on your ticket.

Flights: New Zealand to elsewhere in Australia

There are direct flights to Cairns, Far North Queensland mainly from Auckland – it will be more expensive flight because it is a significantly longer flight from New Zealand but it is the perfect start to a trip down the east coast of Australia.

In addition to the routes listed above Air NZ fly direct to Adelaide and Perth ex-Auckland. In general you will get a better price combining international and domestic flights to reach other destinations including: Darwin, Alice Springs and Hobart.

Qantas offer direct flights into the snow capital of the South Island, Queenstown, from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Flying East from Australasia

If you are flying to/from North America you can often add New Zealand as a stop-over on the way to/from Australia. If you do this with Qantas or AirNZ you may have the option to change your second leg to ex-Christchurch if you arrive in Auckland or vice versa. Other airlines probably won’t have this option.
There are limited flights from Australia/New Zealand to South America. Qantas flys ex-Auckland to Papeete, Tahiti and then onto Santiago, Chile. In addition in Papeete you can connect to LAN-Chile’s flight via Easter Island and subsequently onto Santiago. This is not a cheap route and can be difficult to get a booking on but it’s certainly a more interesting and direct connection from Australia to South America.

Air New Zealand (AirNZ)

New Zealand’s national carrier is a Star Alliance member so airpoints can be shared with other airlines including United, Thai Airways, Luthansa and Singapore Air.

International flights include a full meal service with wine/beer/spirits with meals. Only limited audiovisual entertainment – no seat back TVs.


Australia’s national carrier is a OneWorld member so airpoints can be shared with other airlines including American Airlines, BA, and Cathay Pacific.

International flights include a full meal service with wine/beer/spirits with meals. Only limited audiovisual entertainment – no seat back TVs.

Virgin Blue /Pacific Blue

Local subsidiaries of Virgin fly internationally and domestically in the two countries. Brisbane is their hub for New Zealand flights meaning that sometimes you will be flying a number of extra legs – meaning that they are not always the cheapest option. They do not offer free food, drink or entertainment in-flight so you should also factor the cost of these to your flight.

Booking a Flight Online

  1. Prices will probably appear in NZ$ or A$ – do not assume US$ ! Use a currency converter site e.g. to translate.
  2. Remember your cheapest option may be a combination of airlines -there is no obligation to fly more than one leg with the same airline.
  3. Make sure you allow 2-3 hours, varies by airport/airline, between connections.
  4. Make sure that you are comparing prices including taxes – you may have to click a “make booking” button to see this price, don’t be concerned that you will accidentally make a booking – this won’t happen until you provide your credit card details.
  5. Remember you are using the 24 hr clock 12:20 is lunchtime 00:20 is very early in the morning. There is a 2 or 3 hour time difference between NZ and east coast Australia – all arrival /departure times are local – that’s why they look inconsistent.
  6. You will need to check in 2 hours early for international departures – even those leaving at 6:00am!
  7. When you have found the flights you are happy with double check everything:
    • arrival/departure time/day
    • cities
    • spelling of passengers names – the names must EXACTLY match your passports or you will be refused boarding.
    • you will be given a booking number at the completion of the booking which is worth noting. It is not absolutely necessary to print out the E-Ticket to take but it’s handy to have to remind you of your bookings!