'No competition': Air New Zealand and Jetstar planes on the apron at Queenstown

A Queenstown hotelier believes Air New Zealand’s holding the resort to ransom with exorbitant domestic airfares – unless people book months in advance.

Lew Gdanitz, who also has a Christchurch home, says Queenstown to Christchurch return fares are regularly $600-plus or even $700-plus.

“I just think they’re having a major impact on domestic tourism – I just think it’s appalling.

“You’re not going to come here for a weekend if you’ve got to pay $600 or $700 return from Christchurch or Auckland.

“It’s all very well if you want to book three months ahead.

“Most people can’t book that far out – I’m very short-notice.”

Gdanitz says he’s taken to driving between Queenstown and Christchurch instead.

“I’ve been in Christchurch thinking I’ll come down to Queenstown just to do a couple of things, and it’s $367 each way.”

On Tuesday this week, he noted a fare from Auckland to Queenstown tomorrow morning was $514, yet a Christchurch to Singapore fare, about the same time, was $636.

Another local hotelier, Mark Rose, from The Rees, says “we all know when [competitor] Jetstar comes off a route, the price goes up”.

“When Jetstar ran the Christchurch to Queenstown route, you could get a flight for a hundred bucks to Christchurch.”

That’s just competition, Rose says.

On the other hand, he notes he flew Auckland return on Tuesday, at short notice, for only $350 – “I remember when it was $1000”.

Rose adds that he’s not seen any drop-off in domestic tourism in Queenstown.

Local travel agent Alan Ward yesterday found the cheapest Queenstown to Christchurch flights next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were, respectively, $296, $153 an $133 – Tuesday’s higher fare, he suggests, is probably a “hangover” from the extra demand for seats this Labour Weekend.

Ward advises people to buy in advance as all flights, when released, have designated seats priced down to $53, for example, between Queenstown and Christchurch.

An Air NZ spokesperson says: “We offer seats between Christchurch and Queenstown for a lead-in fare of $39 one way, and seats between Auckland and Queenstown for $79 one way.

“Naturally, as the cheapest fare class, lead-in fares tend to sell first.

“We recommend customers book early to secure the best possible deals.”

The spokesperson says Air NZ, in February, shrank its lowest domestic fares by up to 50 per cent, including on the Christchurch-Queenstown and Auckland-Queenstown routes.