Emirates' decision to fly what will be the longest duration flight in the world from New Zealand was triggered by market maturity. From next month the airline will fly direct from Auckland to Dubai, a flight of 17 hours 15 minutes that will hold the record until Emirates starts its service from Dubai to Panama City, scheduled to launch later in March. That flight will be 20 minutes longer. The airline's New Zealand regional manager, Chris Lethbridge, said the Auckland direct service - rather than flying via Australia - 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. Emirates, the biggest long-haul carrier in the world, has been flying here for 13 years and its three Airbus A380 services a day had built the brand. "From a product point of view and awareness point of view the A380s did a fantastic job for us, albeit they were via Australia." The direct flight to Dubai would appeal to leisure, corporate and visiting friends and relatives segments of the outbound Kiwi market and make it easier for large parts of the inbound market to get here. 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 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." It also made the check-in process easier for the airline. "Operationally as well as commercially it presents a whole lot of opportunities for us." There was a move to longer duration flights throughout the industry, he said. Singapore Airlines plans to bring back its Singapore-New York marathon. "People are time-poor, they want to get to the destination as quickly and efficiently as possible." During the Emirates flight north (longer because of prevailing headwinds) passengers would be able to fit in a good sleep and up to three movies. If they wanted to pull an all-nighter they could get in six movies, he said. The aircraft were fitted with Wifi, with the first 10 megbytes of data free and then small charges applied. "With a long-haul flight the two main things are being entertained and being connected - some people like to watch movies, younger people want to stay connected." While the 777-200LR (long range) was used by Emirates for its longest flights, ultra long-range A380s would also be able to make the direct flight to New Zealand and this could be an option in the future. In addition to the Dubai direct flight, the airline will continue its daily services to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from Auckland with its double-decker A380s, as well as a daily Boeing 777-300ER from Christchurch to Sydney which all fly on to Dubai.
With a long-haul flight the two main things are being entertained and being connected - some people like to watch movies, younger people want to stay connected.
Lethbridge said those New Zealand passengers who had used the Australian flights as a stepping stone to Dubai would be more likely to take the direct flight, freeing up capacity across the Tasman where seats were in high demand. "The non-stop to Dubai opens new opportunities but it also allows us to be more proactive on the Tasman." The transtasman market remained fiercely competitive, he said. David Libeau, general manager of marketing for agents helloworld, said the direct service was great news for New Zealand travellers and would put pressure on competitors. "We would expect this new Auckland-Dubai service to be very popular with New Zealanders flying to and from Europe," Libeau said. "It certainly has the potential to take market share off other carriers that are unable to offer one-stop options to Europe, and Emirates will be the most convenient choice for business and leisure travellers going to the UAE. It is likely that this could create some price competition."