The first direct Emirates flight from Dubai to New Zealand has just arrived at Auckland Airport.

The maiden flight - operated with an Airbus A380 as a one-off special - touched down at 10.33am.

A smaller Boeing 777-200LR was previously expected.

But in a last-minute switch yesterday, an Emirates spokesman said an A380 would be used on the inaugural flights as "a special acknowledgement of the support" the airline has received from New Zealand.

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Regular daily services following the inaugural flights will be operated with a 777-200LR.

The inbound flight from Dubai landed early, taking less than 16 hours to cover the 14,000 km route.

But the return flight to Dubai - which leaves Auckland this evening at 9.30pm - will take around 17 hours and 15 minutes, making it the world's longest duration flight until Emirates launches a service from Dubai to Panama City later this month.

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That flight will be 20 minutes longer.

The Dubai-Auckland flight has eclipsed Qantas' service from Sydney to Dallas/ Fort Worth, in the United States, previously longest non-stop commercial flight, at 16 hours and 55 minutes.

Emirates now has five services into New Zealand daily; three A380 services to Auckland via Australia, a Christchurch service via Bangkok and Sydney with a Boeing 777-ER and the new non-stop flight.

With the introduction of the new service, Emirates will be flying more than 2000 seats a day in each direction on New Zealand services.

The Airbus A380 touched down at Auckland Airport and will turn around to fly back to Dubai tonight. Photo / Christopher Adams
The Airbus A380 touched down at Auckland Airport and will turn around to fly back to Dubai tonight. Photo / Christopher Adams

New Zealand regional manager for Emirates, Chris Lethbridge, told the Business Herald last month that the Auckland direct service had been on the drawing board for some time.

"It's been a project in the making for a number of years but the key was getting to a point where the market was mature enough to sustain a non-stop flight," Lethbridge said.

The direct service is more than three hours quicker than touching down in Australia and would be attractive to business people because of the 9.30pm departure time and also families who could settle young children for a longer time.

"For families with kids it's easier to get them on the aeroplane than off the aeroplane - you don't have that whole disruption."

Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul carrier, has been flying here for 13 years and its three Airbus A380 services a day have built its brand in New Zealand.

But many passengers from the sub-continent, Africa and the Middle East need transit visas for the 90-minute stop in Australia which deterred them from travelling here.

"A lot of those people are hamstrung going through Australia by the visa requirements. It facilitates a much easier experience for those people," Lethbridge said.

The Boeing 777-200LR aircraft used on the new route are purpose-built for ultra long-haul flights, carrying up to 266 passengers.

Rival Middle Eastern carrier Qatar Airways is tipped to be eyeing an ultra long-haul service between Doha and Auckland, which would take more than 18 hours.