3 Feb 2009

Emirates superjumbo begins trans-Tasman flights

7:57 pm on 3 February 2009

The Dubai airline Emirates plans to aggressively compete to ensure it gets enough passengers on its new superjumbo's trans-Tasman flights.

The airline flew more than 400 passengers into Auckland on its double decker Airbus A380's first New Zealand stopover on Monday.

Emirate's expansion in the market comes at a time when Air New Zealand is cutting some of its trans-Tasman routes, including the Dunedin to Sydney and the Hamilton to Brisbane flights, and declaring a price war.

Emirates senior vice president for east Asia and Australasia, Richard Vaughan, said despite the recession the airline is not experiencing reduced passenger numbers in the region. He said forward bookings "look good".

Mr Vaughan said Emirates will in May increase the frequency of its A380 flights between Sydney and Auckland from three times a week, to daily flights.

Auckland International Airport spent $50 million building a new pier and widening the runway to prepare for the Airbus A380's arrival.

Chief executive Simon Moutter said it is important that New Zealand's gateway airport can accommodate superjumbos, which he said will bring benefits for tourism and trade.

Independent aviation commentator Peter Clark said daily flights will be the real test for the airline's ability to compete in the trans-Tasman market, especially since Air New Zealand has announced its intention to compete aggressively.

Peter Clark says while a price war has been declared, there is only so far airlines can drop fares before they're making losses.