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YHA NZ

How do you find cheap internal flights?

Unlike the UK and other European countries, internal flights in New Zealand provide a surprisingly cheap alternative to other forms of public transport, and is certainly not the preserve of commuters and business travellers. Bus journeys, whilst scenic, can be especially long given the challenging terrain many of the roads have to pass through, and a limited rail network with its obvious break between the islands means flying can be the quicker and more convenient option.

Destinations and Main Carriers

There are over twenty regional airports covering the length and breadth of the country, with popular areas like Dunedin, Rotorua and Taupo all benefiting from their own airport. Most daily domestic flights operate out of the four main airport hubs: 

 

Auckland (AKL) 

Wellington (WGT) 

Christchurch (CHC) 

Queenstown (ZQN) 

 

You will find a number of services operating daily between these destinations, each of which operate a smaller number of flights to the regional airports. Generally speaking, the smaller the airport, the more expensive it is to fly to, so you may find it more cost effective to choose one of the bigger hub airports then grab the coach from there to your final destination.  

 

The two main carriers within New Zealand are Air New Zealand and Jet Star. As the national carrier, Air New Zealand offer a slighly more “premium” service (in-flight food and drink served), whereas Jet Star is considered the budget option. Whatever cabin service differentiates the two, they both have similar coverage throughout the country, so you can rely on both to take you where you want to go. Both airlines have pushed back against third-party booking sites and now offer the best prices direct from their own websites. 

Regional Airlines and Smaller Destinations

For shorter flights, there is a good selection of regional airlines offering services to the harder-to-reach areas. 

 

Barrier Air – flying out of Auckland, Barrier Air operates regular services to Great Barrier Island .

 

Sun Air -  based in Tauranga and flying to the smaller regional airports North of Auckland, Sun Air also serves the popular areas of Rotorua and Whangarei.

 

Originair – flies out of Nelson on the South Island to destintations mainly in the south of the north island (Plymouth, Napier, Wanganui), featuring spectacular flights over Mt. Taranaki .

 

Air Chathams – based out of Hamilton, Chathams took over the Air Kiwi routes, serving the south of the North Island, the Kapiti Coast, and offering flights to the Chatham Islands. 

 

Sounds Air – based in Picton, this popular local airline still offers scenic flights over the Marlborough Sounds in a single engine Cessna. 

 

Stewart Island Flights – based in Invercargill and serving the Stewart Islands, fly to the beaches of the beautiful and isolated island off the south coast of the south island. The airline also operates scenic flights all over the Southland area. 

Travel Tips 

Check your baggage allowance. Air New Zealand and Jet Star both allow one piece of check-in luggage of up to 23kg and one carry-on piece up to 7kg. In terms of size, you should find your 40L backpack which meets the EU requirements would be acceptable for internal New Zealand flights. With smaller regional airlines, check before you arrive, as they generally use smaller aircraft less equipped to deal with bulky luggage.
 

Always carry ID – although strictly speaking this does not necessarily mean your passport, it is by far the best form of ID, as other acceptable forms (NZ drivers licence, Student ID) may not be available to you. Also, the larger airlines may require you to enter passport details at the point of booking as part of their TSA security adherence, so if you’ve got it, use it. 
 

Arrive early! - there is no grace period given for domestic flights, even with the smaller carriers, and the plane won’t wait for you. Check in with an hour to spare.

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