The clipped wing version of the Emirates 777-200LR, a design conundrum?
The clipped wing version of the Emirates 777-200LR, a design conundrum?

Normally Emirates flags its new routes a year or more in advance. But Dubai-Auckland, no way, it’s starting on 2 March, daily, with Boeing 777-200LRs and will become the world’s longest non-stop scheduled passenger flight.

The sudden speed to render real its long harboured enthusiasm for doing non-stops between its global hub and New Zealand coincides with some drawn out hints from ME rival Qatar Airways that it is going to do Auckland non-stops from its aspirational rival to Dubai, its Doha hub.

Also with 777-200 LRs, the largely less loved derivative of the 777 family which has found destiny in dueling Middle East rivals.  All we need now is for Etihad to come in with a similar non-stop from Abu Dhabi.

All of which is, or might be, great news for New Zealand tourism. Just think of the health spa recovery packages it’s leisure operators might offer any one who arrives via an epic and jam packed economy class experience in the hideous 10 across seating Emirates puts into Boeings which were intended to be a comparatively spacious nine across in economy for the 777’s generous cabin width.

Note that Qatar Airways currently has that classic nine across economy seating in the ultra long range version of the 777, so if it goes ahead with its even longer Doha-Auckland service it will have a selling point over its UAE rival.

In its statement Emirates estimates that the flight time from Auckland to Dubai will be 17 hours 15 minutes or just under 16 hours the other way. (From Sydney in its more civilised A380s the scheduled times are 14 hours 45 minutes and 13 hours 30 minutes respectively.)

The Dubai-Auckland flight times reflect estimates based on typical met conditions as well as outright distance, and are not much longer than those that are posted by Qantas A380s doing the Sydney-Dallas Fort Worth route, which is currently the world’s longest by distance flown, but almost 400 kms less in length than the impending Emirates non-stops to NZ.

The Emirates scheduling for these services will of course facilitate ready connections to its large European, central Asia, middle eastern and African networks.

Which will no doubt, subtract from the beyond-Dubai traffic from NZ that currently flies on its trans Tasman A380s between Auckland and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. But will that cause a rethink in those A380 tag flights? Maybe, maybe not, because even if the numbers would cause such a reconsideration, the agreements Qantas and Emirates made to the ACCC in getting approval for their commercial relationships did come with certain commitments to maintain capacity on various services.

The move by Emirates has commercial significance on a large scale. It will further fire up Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, who value their access to the broader world market to NZ over their Changi and Hong Kong hubs respectively, and save a lot of travellers to NZ from the Sydney transit experience.

With recent moves on NZ world traffic by SingaporeAir over Canberra and out of Wellington, and a return by AirAsia X, and initiatives by American and China carriers, the fundamentals of that market are on move.

Where they will lead nobody knows, but the gamblers are placing jet sized bets on the Tasman table as the croupier calls  faites vos jeux.

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