The transtasman aviation market is in for a shake-up next month as Emirates takes off a superjumbo and partner airline Qantas replaces it with more frequent flights with a new plane between Auckland and Sydney.

This will pit Qantas and Air New Zealand against each other more frequently on the route which is one of the most competitive in the world.

It means an estimated 14 per cent drop in capacity as Qantas will use a smaller plane, but airline chiefs and travel agents say competition will remain hot over the 2200km stretch of water. There are 326 return flights a week from Auckland alone.

Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans said his airline had been able to free up A330-200s from its domestic network.


"This is the ongoing relationship with Emirates working as you'd imagine over five years - we've seen lots of network changes and this is the two brands working to match supply to demand," he said on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said Emirates' suspension of the A380 from July 13 wasn't a surprise and a "rational" to a fall in demand.

"I think a lot of airlines are doing it quite tough at the moment it's part of the cycle. A good year leads to overcapacity and then a price squeeze as airlines battle to fill planes," he said.

Emirates was undergoing a transformation and the dynamics of its Auckland-Sydney flights had changed since it started direct flights from Auckland to Dubai last March.
"Since putting the direct service through Dubai to Europe customers have moved on to that. They're not taking the transtasman option."

He said his airline watched Qantas closely.

''We have huge respect for them. They're a great airline they're the one big strategic competitor that we have," he said.

''The upshot for us is that we really back ourselves on that Tasman market - it's a place we know well, it's what started our airline, so rest assured we're going to hold our ground really strongly.

Auckland Airport's acting general manager aeronautical commercial Scott Tasker said while disappointed Emirates would stop flying the Sydney route, the airline would continue to have a significant presence with its Melbourne, Brisbane and Dubai direct flights.


Sean Berenson, Flight Centre NZ general manager product, said the Tasman was one of the most competitive stretches of aviation real estate in the world.

"This network change doesn't indicate any lack of traffic between the two countries."
With the new twice daily A330 service, there would be a higher overall frequency of
Qantas flights on the route which would be welcomed by travellers, especially those flying for business, he said.

The Qantas A330-200 has a capacity of 271 seats - 28 in business and 243 in economy.

Under the new schedule, Qantas will offer a total of five return flights per day between Sydney and Auckland (two a day with the A330, plus three on Boeing 737 aircraft).

Weekly Qantas frequencies will increase from 32 to 35 return flights.