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South Pacific & Down Under Postings

/ Source: Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel

• Apr. 4, 2005 | 12:30 PM

Down Under airfare deals, including Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti for one price!

If you’re anything like us, you’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand but never went because you thought that the flight there would be beyond what your budget could afford. While we’ve been searching the Web for discounted rates, the perfect flight offer from Air New Zealand seemed to have fallen straight into our lap. And when we tell you the price, you just might want to pack your bags and leave today.

But hold on. You actually can’t leave until May 1, but be sure to book your flight by the April 15 deadline. And with tickets priced as low as $650 per roundtrip—when they are more likely to cost over $1000—you may really want to decide fast, for the low fares might be gone before you can choose between landing in Auckland or Christchurch.

The offer is valid for travel through June 27 from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Honolulu to Auckland or Christchurch. And when considering the possibilities for adventure both cities offer, making a choice between the two might be the most difficult part. Auckland, known in the Maori language as the ‘city of 100 lovers’ (Tamaki Makau Rau) is surrounded by three harbors, has over 50 islands, two mountain ranges and 48 volcanoes. When you’re there, you have to go sailing, since it’s also known as the City of Sails.

Situated on the east coast of the South Island, Christchurch or The Garden City, offers cosmopolitan sophistication with a whole lot of nature. You can learn about its strong cultural heritage by visiting many of its museums, or opt for long walks it the city’s parks and gardens or go on a harbor cruise, where, if you’re lucky, you might spot the world’s smallest marine dolphin, the rare Hector’s Dolphin.

While you can fly from Los Angles to either Auckland or Christchurch and back for $650 and from San Francisco and Honolulu to Auckland for the same price, flying into Christchurch from San Francisco or Honolulu costs a bit more at $799. All prices are based on a stay of at lest seven days and up to a month. For more details, booking options and other rules and regulations go to Prices from New York to Los Angeles in May and June start from $223 (America West).

We also came across a deal for those aspiring travelers who can't decide between going to Australia or New Zealand. If we may say so, you no longer have to choose. You can go to both and, while you’re at it, why not hang out in Tahiti for a bit. And no, you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to do it. Air Tahiti Nui is offering to take you to all three countries this summer for the price of one roundtrip ticket! You can fly to Sydney from Los Angeles for $998 or from New York for $1,298 for travel between July 1 and September 30. Both departures include free stopovers in Tahiti and New Zealand’s Auckland. Seeing that in July roundtrip tickets to Sydney alone start from $1,170 from Los Angeles and from $1,451 from New York, this seems like a good deal if you’re interested in traveling Down Under. The last day to book your flight is June 10 and the minimum required stay is seven days. For more information visit Air Tahiti online to book.

Reader Response—Air Tahiti Nui

Name: Brad Loewy
Hometown: Tampa, FL
Comments: I just got back from Tahiti and I had serious problems with Air Tahiti Nui. First, by booking your own travel to Los Angeles (instead of through Air Tahiti Nui), it becomes much cheaper to fly, as a Los Angeles—Papeete leg costs $900-$1,100. I was able to book a direct round trip Song flight from Tampa to Los Angeles for $250, giving me a total round trip cost of about $1,200 from Tampa, instead of paying more with Air Tahiti Nui.

I found the Air Tahiti people to be dishonest and manipulative. Checking in many hours early on the way there, we were told we had excellent seats, only to find that we were placed in the last row of the center section next to the bathroom, where the seats do not recline fully. On the return trip, we made the horribly stupid mistake of allowing ourselves to be bumped with the promise of an upgrade (after that first flight that sounded really good!) and a new connection flight to Tampa. We were told there were plenty of other flights to Tampa and it wouldn't be a problem. We stood next to our luggage for 2 hours in the Papeete airport while we waited for new seats without being able to leave the secured ticketing area. We did not receive an upgrade and not only did we miss our connection, Air Tahiti Nui refused to rebook us on any flight to Tampa. While a manager at LAX agreed that we had been treated badly, he still would not help shorten our new 12 hour layover that we had been promised in Papeete would not happen.

• Mar. 10, 2005 | 1 PM

Tahiti, nonstop from the Big Apple

Independence Day will bring New York City and Tahiti closer together this year – only a nonstop flightaway. Air Tahiti Nui,  the leading carrier to French Polynesia, has launched a direct flight from New York City to Papeete, Tahiti, with operations starting this July. The highly desired and much-needed nonstop connection will make travel to the remote Tahitian Islands a lot easier and quicker for busy East Coasters.

The 12-hour direct flight (the return flight from Papeete is 45 minutes longer) will take off three times a week – Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays – from JFK in a spacious airbus carrier with a seating capacity for 294 passengers.

In light of the new launch, Air Tahiti Nui already has discount offers for New York flights lined up to go into effect in July. The leading discount special is priced at $1,000 for weekend roundtrip airfare with a maximum stay of four days, good between July.7 and Dec. 15, 2005. In order to qualify for the fare, you must choose Thursday departure from New York and a Sunday departure from Papeete. For other restrictions and booking rules go to Air Tahiti Nui's website. To put this new route and fare into perspective, the next lowest airfare from NYC to Tahiti in July is $1,940 on American.

For a total of $1,369, you can fly to Tahiti from NYC and back and stay there for three nights. Tahiti Vacations is offering a weekend land-only package, starting at $369 and good for travel between Jul. 4 - Oct. 31, for a three-night stay at Le Meridien Tahiti in a lagoon view room. The offer includes all transfers and hotel taxes and you’ll receive the special $1,000 roundtrip airfare from New York.

Another special from Air Tahiti Nui starts at $1,609 and includes a roundtrip from New York, a welcome lei, five nights at Moorea at Hotel Kaveka, inter-island travel via air and ferry, three night in Tahiti at Tiare Noa Noa, transfers and baggage handling. You must use a code for the offer, which is valid starting in July. For more information, visit the website.

• Feb. 3, 2005 | 12 PM

Reader response: Creative air ticketing

Name: Nancy Cooper
Hometown: Seattle, Washington

When flying to Tahiti from Seattle it was cheaper to book a round trip ticket to Los Angeles and a separate round trip ticket to Papeete. We saved over $300 over the price of a round trip ticket from Seattle to Papeete.

• Feb. 2, 2005 | 12:45 PM

The Australia Air Pass just got that much better

There are some parts of the world that are so remote, so hard to get to, so expensive to access that when you finally make the decision to go, you don't skimp on time on the ground. The vacation planned is a serious one, with a serious number of hours devoted to exploring the local culture, seeing the sights, getting over the jet lag.

Australia is one of those destinations, at least for American travelers. When a Yank decides to go Down Under, according to Tourism Australia statistics, he stays an average of 25 nights. He's also more likely to travel independently—the stats from last year show that 72 percent of American visitors did so without the help of travel packages.

Obviously, someone at Qantas Airlines is also aware of how Americans travel: just this week they dropped the price of high-season February travel for the Australia Airpass. In that month, travelers will be able to fly from either Los Angeles or Honolulu (other  gateways also available) to Australia, and then fly on to three other domestic destinations, all for just $999. Since that's the average rate for flights Down Under, the offer basically allows Americans to hop around Australia as easily as kangaroos—and for no extra charge. The $999 rate will also hold between Apr. 26 and Jun. 17 and Jul. 19 and Aug. 25.

There are some restrictions: the free flights must all be within Zone 1, but since that Zone includes such popular destinations as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania-Hobart, and Brisbane (among others) that isn't too much of a hardship. To fly into a Zone 2 city such as Cairns, Ayers Rock, Alice Springs or Darwin adds $200 onto the price; for Zone 3 (Perth, Broome, Hayman Islands) add another $300 onto the final tally.

Reader tip: Working holidays in New Zealand

Name: Malcolm Ramsay
Hometown: Ridley Park, PA

For those on a budget interested in working abroad, BUNAC has opened up their “Work New Zealand” program to all Americans aged 18-35, meaning that the 30-35 age group who is normally shut out of working holiday schemes can spend a year down under!

Mix and match, Aussie style

Right about now, temps are starting to rise Down Under. “High season” in Australia has officially begun, which means travel bargains are disappearing as fast as you can say “Goodday.” There are, however, a few glimmers of hope for the budget traveler looking to disappear Down Under.

For $1,379, Connecticut-based Crown Travel is arranging flexible city combo vacations. The package price includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles and eight nights divided between Sydney and your pick of two other great Australian cities: Melbourne and sub-tropical Brisbane. You’ll spend four nights in each spot. Domestic airfare within Australia and airport transfers are included in this grand total, but you’ll have to pay extra for meals ($145 for full breakfasts every morning) and sightseeing excursions (from $170 for city tours and more).

Also, departures for the lead price are out of LA, Crown can arrange for add-on airfares from just about anywhere. The travel dates for this offer straddle two of the most desirable seasons in Australia; they are: Nov 1 - Dec 9, 2004 (spring) and Apr 26 - Jun 17, 2005 (fall). We mentioned earlier that these are the times of year when we start to see airfares and the cost of vacations in Australia start to rise. Perfectly illustrating this is the fact that the lowest round-trip airfare from the West Coast (Los Angeles) to Sydney during the first travel window (Nov. 1 – Dec. 9) is a steep $903 (on United Airlines). If you were to piece together your own trip, you’d also spend at least $300 on two domestic flights between Australian cities. Need we say more?

Just in case you have a few hundred dollars extra burning a hole in your pocket, Crown Travel also has a $1,679 Australia vacation to Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Kangaroo Island, home to the country’s largest colony of koalas. This offer covers 12 nights of lodging, as well as domestic air and transfers. Again, it’ll cost you extra to snuggle with the koalas.

Throw some more cities on the barbie: Australia's newest flight pass program

Yesterday, this Sleuth was munching kangaroo sausages and sipping fine Shiraz at an Australia tourism "walkabout". Now usually these press functions are a bit of a waste of time; a lot of brochures get handed around sure, but the small talk is downright lilliputian because really, to write well about travel you need to, well, travel—not schmooze with PR execs. But yesterday, glory be, the event had a purpose: to launch a new travel pass from Qantas that Aussie-bound tourists will actually want to use.

The concept is a simple rip-off of Cathay Pacific's much more extensive “All Asia Pass” and it even carries the same price-tag: $999. Here's how it works: for $999, you—the intrepid traveler— will get to fly from Los Angeles or Honolulu to Oz and then hop to three cities on this massive continent, without paying a cent extra. Considering that airfares from LA to Sydney often top the $999 mark, and fares from say, Brisbane to Sydney can cost $150 each way, this is a superb opportunity for anyone who's ever wanted to really get around Down Under. Travelers have 30 days tops to use their pass and can only fly to one city apiece in three different sectors during that time. But still, these are the cities you'll want to visit: Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Gold Coast Queensland, Perth, Ayers Rock, Darwin, Cairns and others. To extend your trip for another 30 days costs an additional $100.

The $999 price-tag is good until Dec. 9 and again after Apr. 26. In the months in between the rate will rise by about $300. Add-ons from other cities, including those on the East Coast and Midwest, are certainly available.

And for those who just want to see Sydney, Qantas is having a darn-good last-minute sale on fall fares from LA, starting at just $748 (plus tax) round-trip. Go directly to the Qantas site for more information.


Last week we wrote about the Australian Tourist Commission and United Airlines teaming up to offer—finally—truly budget-friendly vacation packages Down Under. Having an airline on board with the offer allows for more flexibility (and affordability) with flights, one of the stickiest sticking points when it comes to visiting Australia. We’re happy to report that the Australian Tourist Commission is also launching a similar initiative with Hawaiian Airlines.

While many flights will originate in US cities on the West Coast (Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, etc.), they will all make stops in Honolulu, and as a result those living in Hawaii will have a chance to hop aboard and take advantage of some terrific fares, like a five-night vacation in Sydney with air from $1,099 with add-ons to the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, and the Outback starting at $499. This is big news for the islanders, who’ve historically had to fly to the US to catch a flight to Australia, or suck it up a spend a bundle. For example, a quick search for the best round-trip fare between Honolulu-Sydney in June coughed up an eye-glazing price of $1,597 (on Qantas and Alaska Airlines). No doubt Hawaiian will be pleased over the long-awaited break in prices Down Under. In an effort to streamline the process, the commission has even set up a specially designated online booking system for its Hawaiian Airline specials.

Right now, half a million Americans visit Australia but if the Tourist Commission keeps at their aggressive partnering efforts, we wouldn’t be surprised if that number skyrocketed in the coming months.

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