News: Scrum down for New Zealand

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Finding a cheap flight to New Zealand in June is normally easy, because demand during the southern hemisphere winter is usually low. But the British and Irish Lions rugby tour of the country in June and July is raising fares and putting pressure on everything from airline seats to hotel beds. Flight shortages are particularly acute to Christchurch in the days before the first test on 25 June, and immediately after the third and final test in Auckland on 9 July.

Finding a cheap flight to New Zealand in June is normally easy, because demand during the southern hemisphere winter is usually low. But the British and Irish Lions rugby tour of the country in June and July is raising fares and putting pressure on everything from airline seats to hotel beds. Flight shortages are particularly acute to Christchurch in the days before the first test on 25 June, and immediately after the third and final test in Auckland on 9 July.

Non-rugby fans who are planning to travel in New Zealand during the tour should "Start in the north in June and work south," advises Arran Sutherland of the Australasian specialist Quest Travel. "They'll be moving in the opposite direction to the crowds".

Getting around during the tour may be tricky, with many flights booked up by official groups. Hotel beds are scarce, especially in Wellington for the second test on 2 July. A good source of information on tickets is the unofficial fans' website www.lions-tour.com.

* Travellers who are able to travel out before the rugby tour can take advantage of some extremely low fares on offer from Air New Zealand for this weekend only. The seat sale launched today applies to flights from 16 April to 15 June, and has flights from London Heathrow to both Auckland and Christchurch priced at £499 return.

To get these fares you must book by Tuesday, 8 February. The deal also applies to "open jaw" travel, eg flying into Auckland and back from Christchurch. Free stopovers are available in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tahiti - the latter on the outbound flight only.

Quest Travel: 0870 444 5552; www.questtravel.com

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