Emirates' announcement it will fly non-stop to Auckland from Dubai is a game changer.

While it means most for the Dubai-based carrier, it's also a move its rivals who fly on to Europe will be watching closely.

The Emirates move is set on a fast changing aviation map as lower cost fuel makes more long haul routes viable and airlines look at places to fly their growing numbers of nice new planes.

Emirates' announcement means that passengers can look forward to knocking more than three hours off a flight from Auckland to Dubai and more significantly on to Europe.

Emirates to fly Auckland - Dubai non-stop
Emirates rips out first class seats

The dog-leg to Australia was a pain, but with this gone Emirates, with its formidable fleet, highly-rated product and marketing muscle, will make the big trip to Europe via the Middle East more seamless.

This means more competition for Air New Zealand, which mainly flies through the United States to Europe, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific which fly through their Asian hubs and the Chinese mainland carriers who also link to Europe through China.

And it's not just about Kiwis going northbound. Emirates has a huge profile in Europe, particularly in Britain. Brits enjoy a stop in Dubai and being able to fly directly to New Zealand from there will have big appeal.

With an estimated flight time of just under 16 hours from Dubai to New Zealand and 17 hours, 15 minutes in the other direction it's a long time in a plane but ultra longhaul flying is something we will see more of as more passengers demand fewer stops.

Emirates president Tim Clark has thought aloud about 20-hour flights from Sydney to Rome before.


Emirates will uses a specially fitted out Boeing 777-200LR aircraft for the ultra-longhaul flights, carrying up to 266 passengers in three classes (by comparison Air New Zealand's 777-200s used on shorter routes have 312 seats in two classes).

Auckland Airport estimates this new service (in addition to Emirates' existing flights out of Christchurch and Auckland across the Tasman and beyond) will add close to 200,000 seats a year and deliver an additional $125 million every year to the New Zealand economy.

Other airlines are also getting increasingly active in a low fuel environment as global travel booms. A falling kiwi dollar doesn't seem to be deterring outbound travel and it makes this country much more attractive to overseas visitors.

Air New Zealand's expanding primarily around the Pacific Rim, Singapore Airlines is flying to Wellington and Cathay Pacific is on track to use the world's newest wide body plane out of Auckland later this year.

Qatar Airways is this week making noises about flying here from Doha although that's unlikely to have triggered the Emirates announcement - the direct flights to Auckland have long been on the radar.

And low cost carrier AirAsia X, returning to this country in March, has raised the possibility of slashed price fares to Europe as its fleet is modernised.

Airlines are having to think out of the square and more competition means more pressure to keep fares down.