Emirates NZ Regional Manager Chris Lethbridge talks to the Herald about the A380 recovery. Video / NZ Herald
Emirates is returning its A380 superjumbo to Auckland from Dubai today, restoring one of the world’s longest non-stop flights.
Although a Lufthansa A380 operated occasional repatriation flights in April 2020, it will be the
the arrival of scheduled double-decker services and marks an important milestone in the restoration of air services to this country. Emirates flew its last signature A380 here two years, eight months and seven days ago.
The return of non-stop services between Dubai and Auckland will also reclaim its title as the longest route in the Emirates network at 14,193 km, as well as being one of the longest non-stop scheduled commercial flights in the world.
However, it is a few kilometers short of Air New Zealand’s Auckland-New York flight, which is listed as 14,215 km (but the two actual flight distances may vary from day to day, depending on the route assigned).
The world’s longest flight remains the 15,345km Singapore-New York ultramarathon flight operated by Singapore Airlines.
Emirates New Zealand regional manager Chris Lethbridge said the return of the large aircraft sends a signal that travel is returning to normal.
“Our goal is to normalize travel again and it sends a very strong message to the market.”
Emirates direct flight EK448 from Dubai to Auckland will depart at 10.05am (local time) and arrive at 11.05am the next day. The return flight will depart Auckland at 9.15pm and arrive in Dubai at 5.25am the next day.
The airline will celebrate 20 years of flying to this country next year. It has operated A380s in this market since 2009. Since introducing the A380 in 2008, across its network Emirates has flown more than 105 million passengers over one billion kilometers on them.
In addition to non-stop flights between Dubai and Auckland starting this week, flights between Dubai and Christchurch via Sydney will resume next March.
From mid-January next year, A380s on the Auckland route will be fitted with the airline’s new premium economy cabin, which will now be fitted to much of the fleet as part of a 2 billion ($3.43 billion) project. When the airline announced the return of the A380, Lethbridge said that during the course of the pandemic, Emirates remained steadfast in its commitment to New Zealand.
“Strengthening our air transport and improving access is critical to supporting the recovery of the country’s travel and tourism industries. Our customers are looking forward to seeing the A380s in the sky.”
Scott Tasker, general manager of customer and commercial aeronautics at Auckland Airport, said the direct connection between Auckland and Dubai had been a popular choice for travelers in the past.
“They will also be excited to see this service return.”
Emirates was by far the largest customer of Airbus’ A380s, which are no longer in production, and had 120 aircraft in its fleet, of which around 80 are flying again. Emirates wants the entire fleet back in the air by the middle of next year.
The Dubai-based airline commissioned the construction of half of the A380s, which it operates with between 484 seats (on Premium Economy aircraft) and 517 seats.
Although the aircraft suited its operations to fly large volumes of passengers on single aircraft through its mega hub in Dubai and the world’s other major airports, the A380 did not receive enough orders from other airlines to make the program viable.
Additional focus on the greater fuel efficiency of twin-engine rather than four-engine jets on jumbo jets during the pandemic was also a blow to the A380.