The longest commercial flight in the world - Qatar Airways' Doha to Auckland service - touched down ahead of schedule today and the airline says it is here for the long haul.

Flight QR920 was due to land at Auckland Airport at 7.30am but landed 15 minutes early after a flight of about 16-and-a-quarter hours.

This afternoon's return journey could take more than 18 hours because of headwinds.

The airline's chief executive Akbar Al Baker was aboard the flight and when asked whether any rise in fuel prices could affect commitment to the route, he said it was a long term commitment to the country.


"We never close a route when we launch. We are not an airline that is only here for good times. We are here for good times and bad times because we service the people that we operate to.''

On its daily Auckland service the airline is using a long-range Boeing 777 which has 217 economy seats and 42 business class seats. Today's flight was full.

The return flight is due to leave Auckland Airport at 2.40pm today.

He said Auckland rounded off his airline's network in this part of the world.

Ultra long range flying would become more common but airlines needed to provide high quality product.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker. Photo / Supplied
Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker. Photo / Supplied

"I think it depends on what kind of in flight service you provide to the passengers and we are known to have the best.''

Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport's acting general manager - aeronautical commercial said the new service provided more than 189,000 seats and 6000 tonnes of cargo capacity on the route each year. The airport estimates that this will translate into a $198 million boost to the New Zealand economy.

Watch: Qatar Airways lands in Auckland

Auckland Airport chief executive on Qatar's arrival.

"We expect the new route to be particularly popular with European visitors to New Zealand, and that this will help New Zealand continue to grow and diversify its inbound visitor markets and increase tourism spending around the country. New Zealanders will also value having an exciting new airline option when they travel to the United Kingdom and Europe."

On the flight to Auckland there were four pilots on board and 15 cabin crew who served 1100 cups of tea and coffee, 2000 cold drinks and more than 1030 meals.

The arrival of Qatar Airways' daily flights provides more competition for long-haul airlines operating in and out of New Zealand.

Gulf giant Emirates, which offers five flights a day (including what was previously the longest, from Auckland to Dubai) on bigger planes and is well established in this market.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 economy class
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 economy class

But it was quick to respond with the direct Auckland-Dubai service soon after Qatar confirmed it was coming here early last year and also soon upgraded its aircraft to put on Airbus A380 double-decker planes, which are popular with passengers.

Although Air New Zealand doesn't fly to Europe via the Middle East it has warned that increased competition will affect earnings after a record result last year.

Qatar has offered some economy fares to Europe for just over $1200 and less than $5000 in business class, which travel agents say are the lowest ever from a five-star carrier.

Flight Centre says at the same time a year ago the best-advertised price for a return airfare to Europe (Amsterdam) was from $1535 on China Southern Airlines.

Sean Berenson, the agent's NZ general manager product, says increased capacity and competition among airlines has seen record low fares come through in the past six months.

"The market is very competitive right now, which has been driven by increased competition on popular routes. This has driven a frenzy of sales activity which is great for the consumer while it lasts."

Business class aboard a Qatar Airways 777
Business class aboard a Qatar Airways 777

Qatar Airways is one of the fastest-growing full-service carriers in the world. Just 20 years old, the state-owned airline has close to 200 aircraft in its fleet and hundreds more on order. Last year it started flying to 14 new destinations and says New Zealand has been on its radar for several years following the 2015 signing of an Air Services Agreement between the two countries to permit flights.

Al Baker, known as one of the airline industry's most outspoken chief executives, said he was "saddened" by US President Donald Trump's now overturned ban on travellers from targeted countries.

Trump's order temporarily banning refugees and travellers to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries - Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen - had badly disrupted Middle Eastern airlines. The order has been overturned by a federal judge.

While he didn't want to make political comments he was ''very sad'' at Trump's move.

An engine on Qatar Airways' Boeing 777-200LR which is the only plane in its fleet capable of the Auckland flight. Photo / Grant Bradley
An engine on Qatar Airways' Boeing 777-200LR which is the only plane in its fleet capable of the Auckland flight. Photo / Grant Bradley

Al Baker has headed the airline for the past 20 years and has a reputation for being especially tough on plane makers when he thinks they're not delivering up to scratch.

Like its bigger rival Emirates across the Gulf, Qatar uses a modern and rapidly growing hub airport as the base for its global operations and its crew are based in Doha.

While Qatar has won a slew of awards for its product and service, it has attracted criticism for its labour practices but says it operates according to the laws of every country it operates in and attracts thousands of applications for work as flight attendants. It has 112 nationalities among its cabin crew.

The airline and other Gulf carriers face opposition from United States carriers as they expand into the big US market.

Air India's Delhi-San Francisco flight is the world's longest by distance, but according to the "Great Circle" route Doha and Auckland are further apart on the surface of the Earth. Tailwinds mean the Air India's flight time is less than 17 hours.

Singapore Airlines will eclipse every carrier when it reinstates its Singapore-New York service next year with a distance of 15,344km and a 19-hour flight time.