Standby fares return and prices drop

Wellington travellers can now take advantage of cheap last-minute flight deals with Air New Zealand bringing back standby fares.

Air NZ made the announcement this morning along with cuts to its fares for passengers who only have small carry-on luggage.

The airline said standby fares would be offered nationwide until June 30 next year following trials in Dunedin and Christchurch.

The standby "seat only" fare will cost $59 to many of the airline's 27 domestic destinations on any non-stop flight between 10am and 3.30pm.

The two longest routes of Auckland-Dunedin and Auckland-Queenstown will cost $79 one way on standby.

Standby fares, including a bag, are available for $10 more a person for a one way journey. Today's standby fares can be viewed here.

Travellers will need to be Airpoints members to take advantage of the fares, although membership is free.

The standby fares means passengers only fly if there are spare seats available on the specified off peak flights.

Blackout periods will be put in place on peak travel days when the likelihood of passengers getting a seat is small.

The announcement coincides with Air New Zealand cutting its lowest domestic fares by an average of 6 per cent.

The cheapest fares have been trimmed by up to $10, for travellers who only have small carry-on luggage of up to 7kg. The fares will be $10 less for those taking a large bag up to 23kg that is checked in.

The ''Seats to Suit'' fare with carry-on bags only was brought in on Tasman and Pacific Island flights more than a year ago and is now being brought in for domestic flights.

Air New Zealand's website shows the cheapest fares from Wellington to Auckland on Wednesday next week are $99 one way, with just a carry-on bag. The cheapest fare with a checked bag was $109.

However, there were just two flights with such seats available, the rest were sold out.  Full fare flights ranged from $239 one way, up to $369 for peak times.

Return flights from Auckland to Wellington next Thursday were completely sold out of the $99 and $109 fares.

The airline said the new fares meant it will have more than 1.5 million domestic fares under $100 available for customers each year.

The Dominion Post