Spenny Flights Affect Homesick Students

Spenny Flights Affect Homesick Students

Who’s keen to hitch-hike?

Unaffordable domestic flights are keeping some homesick Otago students firmly in Dunedin in the upcoming break. A combination of increased domestic fares across the board and already steep peak ticket prices may mean the North Dunedin boomers are stuck with us over the winter break.

On April 22nd, Air New Zealand announced that the price of domestic flights will increase across the board, citing the increased cost of aviation fuel and permits as the chief reason behind the change. The company reported that they had been taking a smaller cut of profit from sales in the lead up to the decision. Though Air New Zealand did not announce the rate of price increase, StatsNZ reported that domestic flight prices increased by 7.7% between February and March.

For students, the fees increase adds onto the already inflated prices of domestic fares as the company seemingly targets the broke demographic with price gouging around semester dates. In the three days leading up to the start of Semester 2, students are being charged over $300 for tickets from Auckland to Dunedin – skyrocketing to almost $600 in some instances. 

Although the price gouging mostly affects students returning to Dunedin after the break, domestic flight prices marginally increase in the post exam period as well. Flight tickets to and from Auckland over these periods are anywhere from $10 to $230 more expensive than off-peak times of the year. 

The price increase has caused a lot of stress. One student, Nicole, said, “It sucks, because if I went home I have to pay at least a hundred dollars just to fly there and then I still have to pay like $200 for rent on my flat […] it makes it not worth it, I’ll just get on the bus.” Taking the bus isn’t an option for the over 10,000 students originating from the North Island, however. 

Jetstar, Air NZ’s budget counterpart, has been able to maintain its low prices in comparison, but students are often hesitant to choose the airline for fear of flight delays. One student, Giles, commented, “I only go to Auckland for concerts and often it's a quick turnaround with an afternoon flight there, concert, then an early flight the next morning to get back for class […] I just can’t rely on Jetstar being on time.” Jetstar has also been condemned by students for only having one flight to Dunedin per day, while Air NZ in some instances has seven.

Speaking to the airline’s pricing over breaks, another student Matthew boldly asserted, “Air NZ is a monopoly and they should be destroyed […] Can I get a free plane ticket though?” Emily, who flies home to Wellington in the breaks, said, “I'm angry. It’s stupid to target an already broke demographic […] I understand that the demand goes up over the breaks, but it's so much higher from Dunedin airport.” Emily reported that she now drives to either the Christchurch or Queenstown airport for a north-bound trip just to get a cheaper flight. Critic suggests other alternatives like kayaking, hitch-hiking, or simply walking.

This article first appeared in Issue 11, 2024.
Posted 4:54pm Saturday 11th May 2024 by Molly Smith-Soppet.