September 10, 2003 -- It's not only cold destinations that get cheaper in the fall. Fares to Europe have been reaching frigid lows, but we've also been seeing fall and winter sales to Australia and South Africa -- destinations that cruise through balmy summer while the rest of us shiver into winter.
Fares to Australia and New Zealand seem to have developed a pattern, with regular, repeating sales keeping fares around $800 from the West Coast. Of course, being sales, these fares can disappear at any time, and we expect fares to swing up a bit for January and February, the antipodean high season.
(Note: none of the fares below include taxes, which are usually around $100.)
The best roundtrip fares at the moment are from Air New Zealand. Flights from Los Angeles to Auckland are $750; flights to Wellington and Christchurch are $850, and flights to Queenstown are $950. Open-jaw flights are also available at similar prices. You've got to book by Sept. 15 for travel before Dec. 5, online at www.airnz.com.
If you'd like to stop over somewhere tropical, Air Tahiti Nui gives you a free stay in Tahiti for just a bit more. Their "Auckland Special" offers flights from LA to Auckland for $791, including a stop in Tahiti. You must buy by Sept. 15 for outbound travel by Dec. 14, staying in New Zealand between 7 days and one month. They're online at www.airtahitinui-usa.com, but buy this one by phone at 877/824-4846.
Down at Qantas, fares from Los Angeles to Auckland are $757, flights from Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose to Auckland are $889-899, and flights from New York City are $998. Flights from Seattle are $1,064, and from Portland flights are $1,074. Fares to Christchurch and Wellington are $100 more, and fares to Queenstown are $200 more. Terms are similar to the Air New Zealand sale: book by Sept. 15 for outbound flights by Dec. 5 and returns by Dec. 14, and book online at www.qantasusa.com/webDeal.php?ID=91. There's a seven-day minimum stay and a one month maximum stay.
Qantas offers flights from other US destinations, but depending on the location, you may get a better deal by hoofing it yourself to one of their cheaper gateways. For instance, flights from Boston and Washington are both over $1,200, which makes taking the bus to New York look pretty attractive. But $1,154 from Dallas and Denver may make sense considering the cost of getting to the West Coast.
Similar deals from Qantas cover the Australian mainland. Fares from Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne are as low as $806. Fares from San Diego and San Francisco are $883, Las Vegas $948, Chicago and Denver $1023, Dallas $1,043, and Miami, New York, Boston and DC $1,063. Flights to Brisbane cost $100 more. Book by Sept. 15 for outbound travel by Nov. 29, returning by Dec. 5. There's a six day minimum stay and a one month maximum stay. Book online at www.qantasusa.com/webDeal.php?ID=93.
The other big player in Australian flights is United, and their "Discover Australia" fares are competitive with Qantas'. If you prefer United frequent flier miles, go for them. Flights from LA to Sydney and Melbourne are $810. Flights from San Francisco are $880, flights from Seattle are $990, tickets from Atlanta, Chicago, and Denver are $1020, and tickets from Boston, Miami, New York and DC are $1060. Purchase by Sept. 30 for travel through Dec. 5 with a six-day minimum stay at www.ual.com/page/article/0,1360,50063,00.html.