Air New Zealand first trialled standby fares in 2011, launching a standby product that allowed tickets to be purchased at the airport for $69 on any Air New Zealand domestic service if there were spare seats available. Tickets were available 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time of the flight, and while fares earned no Airpoints Dollars or Status Points and did not allow access to Koru lounges, the experiment was a little too successful - there were often large queues at the airport for standby seats, and plenty of grumpy passengers when they found they couldn't get on flights. A combination of factors resulted in the product being culled in 2013.
In 2015 as part of a major review of regional services that saw services withdrawn from some regional destinations, Air New Zealand reintroduced standby fares to regional destinations. Gotta Go fares are $169 for a single flight, or $249 for a multi sector journey, which can be a significant discount compared to typical last minute fare prices on many regional routes. On a Gotta Go fare you'll earn Airpoints Dollars and Status Points, get a checked bag, and also receive lounge access if eligible. Fares can only be booked by calling Air New Zealand between 60 and 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time of the flight.
While many people perceive regional airfares in New Zealand to be expensive, the simple reality is that the per seat cost of flying a small plane around is significantly more than that of flying in a jet. Many people often complain that the cost of last minute travel is "more expensive than flying to Australia", but if you've ever looked at last minute flight costs to Australia you'll realise they're not exactly cheap either. Air New Zealand's exit from some regional destinations and the scrapping of its 19 seat Beechcraft B1900 aircraft was in part because of growing losses on some routes and the high cost of flying small 19 seat aircraft.
Gotta Go fares are available on flights to or from Blenheim, Gisborne, Hamilton, Hokitika, Invercargill, Parapaumu, Kerikeri, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga, Timaru, and Whangarei. You can't use them to fly directly or indirectly between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown or Dunedin.
If this all sounds a little too good to be true, there are a few catches. You can't purchase a Gotta Go fare if you already have a ticket to the same destination on the same day with the same name. Despite not making any mention online in the fare rules or terms and conditions, Air New Zealand will also not sell Gotta Go fares on any flight where there are fewer than 5 seats remaining 90 minutes before the flight, something that does seem slightly self defeating when the whole point of a standby fare is to fill those last few seats.
If you are flexible with your travel times and dates, they can be a great way to travel with signficant savings compared to normal last minute airfares.