The first flight on Emirate's Bali-Auckland route has landed at Auckland Airport – opening up direct competition with Air New Zealand.
Emirates now flies daily from Auckland to Bali year-round, using 777-300ER planes on the roughly eight-hour flight.
The first flight from Bali landed this morning about 20 minutes early to a welcoming water cannon. Passengers included NZ Ambassador to Indonesia Trevor Matheson.
Air New Zealand had this year stepped up its own flights on the route to five times a week during the winter peak using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
About 40,000 New Zealanders holiday on the Indonesian island each year.
That is up 31 per cent in the past two years and could grow further if the increased competition keeps pulling flight prices down.
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, but Bali-bound Kiwi holidaymakers are a big part of the rationale for the new service.
Speaking to New Zealand media ahead of the flight, Emirates chief commercial officer Thierry Antinori acknowledged the new competition with Air New Zealand, but also said the market would grow.
"We are there for the customer. We do not look too much who's flying there. But, yes, I heard they fly there. So yes, the customer will decide. But we are doing that because we feel a market, we think Bali is a destination that deserves to be connected all year round to Auckland. It is not the case today. So we saw this gap.
"It's about the existing market and stimulating. It's like chicken and egg. You can wait, or you can act. We think that if we put Bali on the map, every day, 365 days a year, the trade, the consumer, the stakeholder will have another focus."
The Auckland-Bali route is a renewed commitment to the New Zealand market after Emirates axed its Auckland-Melbourne and Auckland-Brisbane Airbus A380 superjumbo services.
*The Herald travelled courtesy of Emirates