Just when Air New Zealand was about to wave goodbye to the Emirates juggernaut flying from Auckland across the Tasman, the Dubai-based airline is back in direct competition on another developing route.
From mid-June Emirates will fly daily from Auckland to Bali year-round, a route that was coming along nicely for Air New Zealand. This year it was stepping up from three times a week to five times a week during the winter peak using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Emirates' 777-300ER aircraft will add close to 130,000 seats across first class, business class and economy over a year on the route. The airline is also banking on travellers flying on to Dubai and beyond (and inbound tourists to New Zealand from the Northern Hemisphere) to help fill up the plane, Bali-bound Kiwi holidaymakers are a big part of the rationale for the new service.
Between the two airlines at peak times, 4000 seats to Bali will need filling. This has already led to some great airfare deals.
Emirates this morning released return Bali fares starting at $899 (including taxes).
Air New Zealand has released promotional fares and grabaseat deals in the past but today mid-winter fares through its website start at around $1300 economy return.
The number of Kiwis visiting the holiday mecca is up 31 per cent in the past two years to around 40,000 a year. On-the-ground costs can be low compared to other destinations and if you can get there for less that market is set to boom.
Emirates's move represents a welcome renewed commitment to the New Zealand market where it has been flying for the past 15 years. The Auckland-Melbourne and Auckland-Brisbane Airbus A380 superjumbo services will end next month - they were largely victims of the success of the direct Auckland-Dubai route - but the flight to Bali is a change in tack, tapping firmly into the leisure market and with an aircraft appropriate for the route.
Using the twin-engine 777 on a nine-hour flight is a more efficient operation than an A380 on the short hop across the Tasman, which needed more premium seats filled upstairs to make it economical.
For Air New Zealand this added competition is more of the same. The amount of flying where it faces direct competition has climbed from 56 per cent to 71 per cent of available seat kilometres during the past three years, according to Macquarie analysis.
Direct competition to Hawaii from Hawaiian Airlines for the past five years led to an immediate drop in fares, more flights and better planes. The airline often says competition brings out the best in it.
Assuming the New Zealand airline meets the Emirates challenge on the Bali route that's going to be great news for Kiwi sunseekers.