The return of Emirates’ A380 to Christchurch tomorrow means first class travellers have the option of taking a shower mid-flight, while exporters have an opportunity to shift 18 tonnes of freight in the aircraft’s belly.
The double-decker plane’s daily Christchurch-Sydney-Dubai service has been welcomed by the city’s airport and a regional business group as a sign of confidence in the area.
“We see the return [of the aircraft] as a huge positive and a reflection of the confidence in Christchurch as an international destination for both people and freight – particularly given Christchurch is the smallest city in the world to host an Emirates A380,” said chief executive of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Leeann Watson.
“Not only will this daily flight bring visitors and business travellers into our city and region who will contribute to our local economy, it will also connect us with one of the world’s largest transport hubs and provide certainty for our exporters and their freight capacity.”
The airline, which has copped flak during the last two weeks after it was revealed a Kiwi passenger was paid out $13,555 after a Boeing 777 business class seat was not as advertised during a flight last year, now has consistent A380 product at its two New Zealand destinations, Christchurch and Auckland.
Emirates’ New Zealand regional manager Chris Lethbridge said the airline stood by its product.
“We know it’s a good product, but I think Covid was a tough time for everyone.”
He said A380s could carry between 15 tonnes and 18 tonnes of freight.
“We’re thrilled it’s not only the passengers, but it’s also the freight forwarders and the exporters who will welcome the return of the aircraft.”
The airline would carry perishable produce such as sheep meat, fish, cherries and other fruit out of the South Island.
“We can use the Tasman service to connect into Asia, but also we’ve got the capacity into the Middle East and Europe as well,” said Lethbridge.
Like the A380 flying into Auckland, the aircraft into Christchurch has a four-class cabin which includes first class, business class, the new premium economy seats and economy.
Passengers in first class can reserve a shower session. They get about five minutes of water in a large spa-style suite.
Lethbridge said some travellers saved up for a three-hour splurge on the Tasman.
“It’s probably one of the easiest bucket list trips that you can you can do - it’s the most affordable first class a passenger can get.”
A snapshot of prices on Emirates’ website for a one-way flight from Christchurch to Sydney on April 28 shows first class starts at $1582, business $837, premium economy $778 and economy $348.
The 489-seat plane will be a further boost for the recovering visitor sector.
“All of a sudden you’ve got the ability to service the events market, the group movements, and then using Christchurch as a gateway into that wonderful South Island tourist route,” said Lethbridge.
Christchurch Airport chief executive Justin Watson said the big plane would boost capacity on the Tasman from about 55 per cent of pre-Covid levels to around 75 per cent.
“It’s hugely important for Christchurch, the South Island and New Zealand because it provides connections not only to Australia, but also beyond,” he said.
Emirates joins Singapore Airlines, Jetstar, Qantas, Fiji Airways and Air New Zealand in offering international services out of Christchurch.
‘’We’ve got an indication from our other carriers that they will return when market conditions are right.’’
Watson said the airport was hopeful China Southern would return when the outbound Chinese tourism market recovery kicked into gear.
“All the airlines are struggling to scale back up. And so they’re flying as much as they can and everything’s pretty full. We just need a bit more time for it to play out and more capacity to become available.”
* Christchurch Airport is opening a “Planespotters’ Park” on Monday, opposite the main runway, for enthusiasts to see the arrival of the A380. It will open at noon for the 1.55pm arrival, and again at 5pm for the 6.20pm departure.