Air NZ Beaten to the Punch

Bus companies are aggressively pursuing travellers in a bid to give airlines a run for their money. They’re offering new coaches, rock-bottom fares, and perks like free Internet access so passengers can be connected while they ride.

“In the UK and Europe people are choosing internet-connected buses over other forms of transportation and buses that don’t have Wi-Fi are losing passengers,” says business IT expert Brent Larsen.

Cheap nationwide bus company is the first in NZ to offer Wi-Fi to its customers.

For Kate Harris it’s long overdue.

“Every Friday I head home to see my family in Whangarei. I used to fly but once I added up check-in times with the time and cost of getting to the airport from Albany, it worked out better to go by bus.  With I’m connected to the internet the whole way, plus if I book early enough I can get a seat for $1,” says Ms Harris.

Business IT expert Brent Larsen says that by deploying wireless infrastructure, public transport companies like, are offering amenities that could boost passenger numbers.

“Ten years ago, buses would not have been considered a viable substitute to airline seats,” says Mr Larsen. “Air travel has changed so much, from increased security measures, packed planes, stuffed overhead lockers, and petrol prices raising airport transfer costs… consumers are evaluating the way they travel”. founder Hamish Nuttall agrees.

“Our business is growing rapidly, in only four years we’ve gone from four routes to visiting 320 towns and cities around the country every day. Airlines only reach 23 places, so in the majority of areas we’re the only option for many travellers. We’ve been inundated with requests from international visitors asking for Wi-Fi,” says Mr Nuttall.  “We had to source and modify specialist equipment from Europe that’s rugged enough to withstand long-distance bus travel through NZ’s windy roads and provide enough bandwith.”

Mr Larsen says that Wi-Fi has advantages over and above passenger entertainment; it also offers video surveillance and sophisticated maintenance tracking.

“Streaming surveillance video from wireless cameras on buses has been very successful for bus operators overseas. Plus the engine can automatically send back speed, braking, and oil pressure data, so instead of pulling buses off the road for checks you have a real time feed coming from the engine. Companies can literally talk to buses while they’re on the road,” says Mr Larsen.

Ten years ago many saw bus travel as a last resort, but now with installing Wi-Fi on their vehicles, the bus industry is beginning to lose the stigma.

“Airlines offer minimal connectivity for passengers, mostly just text and email services. Our customers can skype, facebook, and youtube while they travel,” smiles Mr Nuttall.

It’s also one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel. Just under a third of’s passengers previously used their cars meaning that nearly 100,000 car kilometres are saved each year.

“That’s enough to go around the world twice (and then some),” chuckles Mr Nuttall. “We’re carbon negative because passengers use us instead of their cars. We’ve calculated that we’re reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 1784 tonnes per annum.  Plus our new buses are the lowest emitting vehicles on the road (according to VTNZ).” says it’s the way of the future. Over 80% of travellers use some form of technology on buses like cellphones, ipods, or cameras.

“We’re the first to offer Wi-Fi and we were the first to introduce $1 fares – the ethos of ‘the earlier you book the cheaper it is’ still stands,” says Mr Nuttall. “We’re confident that tourists coming to NZ for the Rugby World Cup will use us; we’re cheap and we’re online.”

Wi-Fi will be free on the Auckland to Kerikeri via Paihia route until the end of the year when begins rolling out Wi-Fi over their entire network.

“Wi-Fi is making public transport more attractive… the feedback we’ve had so far has been excellent,” says Mr Nuttall. “Eventually every bus in our fleet will have Wi-Fi… I’m pretty sure our competitors will follow us now.”

Mr Larsen agrees.

“Companies are going to have to offer new technology to keep up with overseas trends and business. International travellers expect to be connected. Ten years ago few hotel chains offered Wi-Fi services; nowadays people will go elsewhere if you don’t have it. It’s the same for public transport,” says Mr Larsen.

“I swore I’d never go on a bus again after high school,” says Ms Harris. “Mucking around online while I travel beats the boring journeys on uncomfortable graffiti-soaked seats I used as a teenager day-in and day-out.”

Customer Comments

Love it

Love the service.
-Daniel Nehemia

Peaceful and comfortable

I liked the fact that the driver was not giving us a tour, unlike [competitor]! It was peaceful and comfortable.

-Fiona O’Hara

Challenging of price structures

Good to see serious challenging of price structures.

-John Heighes