The World’s Longest Flight Will Soon Be Flown By An A380

On March 1, 2016, Emirates launched the world’s longest flight, between Dubai and Auckland. Airlines usually announce new routes many months in advance (often even a year out), but in this instance Emirates announced the route just a month before it launched.

Auckland-New-Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand

That was probably motivated by the fact that Qatar Airways announced they were going to launch a Doha to Auckland nonstop flight just a week before Emirates did, so if I had to guess Emirates scrambled last minute to announce a similar route, and even beat them to the punch in commencing the service.

Since then, Qatar Airways has significantly delayed the launch of this new flight due to a shortage of available aircraft which can operate the route. As of now Qatar Airways is planning to launch Auckland flights as of February 1, 2017.

Qatar-Airways-777
Qatar Airways 777-200LR, which was going to operate the new flight

Emirates has been operating the Dubai to Auckland flight using a Boeing 777-200LR, which is the only plane in their fleet which can operate the flight nonstop in both directions without having to block seats. At 8,824 miles, it sure is an ultra longhaul flight, and is a few hundred miles longer than the second longest flight in the world (Sydney to Dallas).

Well, it looks like this new flight will soon be upgraded. Emirates will be operating an Airbus A380 daily between Dubai and Auckland as of December 2016, per Tim Clark, the airline’s president. According to Gulf News, the new flight has been operating with an average load factor of over 85%, which is pretty incredible for a new route.

Emirates-A380-First-Class-01
Emirates A380

The catch is that I suspect the flight will be significantly weight restricted when operated by an A380. That’s to say that Emirates won’t be able to sell all 489 seats on the plane, at least on the westbound flights when there are strong headwinds.

I assume we’ll find out soon just how much Emirates will have to weight restrict this flight, though I’m sure they’ve crunched the numbers and the route makes sense in spite of that.

Presumably the reason for the upgrade is the huge increased premium cabin capacity on the A380 vs. the 777-200LR. The A380 has a total of 90 premium seats (14 first class and 76 business class), while the 777-200LR has a total of 50 premium seats (8 first class and 42 business class). That doesn’t even account for the fact that the A380 features a significantly better business class product.

Emirates-A380-Cabin
Emirates A380 first class

Emirates-Business-Class
Emirates A380 business class

Even if Emirates has to block off ~100 economy seats on certain flights, the 40 additional premium seats, plus added economy capacity, could still make this route profitable, given the pricing power they have on this flight.

Rather insanely, this also means Emirates will have four A380s on the ground in Auckland every day at the same time, as they also operate A380s to Auckland from Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Emirates-Auckland-Flights

That makes Auckland the airport with the second most Emirates A380s on the ground at any point, after Dubai.

Bottom line

While the schedule hasn’t yet been updated to reflect it, Emirates’ president insists the airline will fly A380s nonstop to Auckland starting in December, so I’d assume that will be the case. I’m curious to see how badly they have to weight restrict the plane, given how long the flight is. It’s crazy to think that Emirates will have four A380s on the ground in Auckland every morning.

I also wonder if Emirates is upgrading this route to an A380 in hopes of discouraging Qatar Airways from actually launching their flight to Auckland.

Comments

  1. I’m still scratching my head how this route has this much demand.
    Is New Zealand that much of a big market?

  2. Very true airlines use weight restrictions on long haul flights, The unique selling proposition will be customers choice

  3. I don’t understand why those three OZ flights all have an Auckland tag. Are they filling them with local traffic between Australia and New Zealand? Puzzled.

  4. Yes, Georges, the Emirates A380 easily offers the best Y product, arguably the best J, and the only F cabin on the trans-Tasman route. There is a substantial amount of local traffic filling these planes, in my experience. When the bulk of the competition are flying 737s (QF, VA) or cramped 777s (NZ), it’s easy to understand why.

  5. @Georges Pharand

    I’m pretty sure you’re right, the three Australian flights that fly onwards to New Zealand will keep the stop because the demand from Australia to Auckland and vice versa is huge, I’d say especially in the premium sector. Emirates operates lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Auckland. Passengers would also earn Emirates points, which would still work with Qantas Frequent Flyer. Scheduling is also not bad at all, with Emirates flights landing when people are meant to be awake. Besides, I’d very much rather sit in a long haul Emirates seat than a regional recliner, whether it’s a B777 or an A380. It can also be said that the aircraft would have nothing better to do if it didn’t fly the extra leg, but that’s just speculation from me.

  6. Yeah, the cross-Tasman traffic is huge, so the three Australian flights make sense.

    The best thing about having the A380 on this route is that its Economy is so much more comfortable – nearly 17 hours in a cramped 777 is just too off-putting.

    Given the efficiency of Emirates/Dubai airport, this will appeal to those who want to go to the UK in (virtually) one fell swoop. It is, for most of us, the mother country.

  7. London Heathrow hasmore Emirates a380 very day then Auckland. 5 round flights per day.

  8. Lucky are you certain the direct flight leaves AKL at the same time as the 3 flights via Australia? It was my understanding that because it doesn’t make the stop in Australia, the direct flight leaves AKL much later than the Australian flights?
    I also understand that the tag flights are more because it’s cheaper to fly freight across the tasman than have the planes sit empty on the tarmac paying airport fees in australia for 14+ hours a day. They’re rarely full of pax.

  9. @Matthew Poole. Yeah, but not all the EK flights on LHR are on the ground at the same time, whereas on AKL they arrive in a span of under an hour.

  10. I wonder if such a big capacity restriction means that you could book a Y seat and almost be guaranteed a full row of seats to lay down. It is a poor man’s FC!

  11. What is award availability like? I would love to fly the Dubai-Auckland route on the A380 in F or even J. I haven’t researched it all though.

  12. @Malc

    2 things:

    1. The A380 is perhaps a bit more comfortable, but 17 hours in economy sucks no matter what…

    2. There’s dozens of ways to get to London in 1 stop and CX can already get you AKL-HKG-MAN as well.

  13. @Tom @Georges Pharand @Ben – EK’s flights between AKL and SYD/BNE/MEL are usually full in my experience. They sell a reasonable number of fares through DXB and beyond, and whatever space is left can easily be filled with Australia & NZ O&D traffic. While the nonstop flight changes the dynamic slightly, it is not so much that the tag legs on the other flights no longer make sense. (More space for O&D and more higher yielding passengers for Australia to Dubai and beyond.)

    @Ben – the three trans-tasman flights all arrive and depart AKL within 30 minutes or so of each other, the nonstop flight arrives earlier and departs later; thus 4 EK A380 on the ground at once at AKL.

  14. This is really going to put the squeeze on AKL airport. They only have three A380 gates. With the Singapore A380 departing barely an hour before the three flights from Australia arrive. AKL need to get on with their expansion plans

  15. @ Justin, sure Economy isn’t gonna be good in any aircraft for 17 hours. But having flown back to NZ on several occasions (on shorter flights, sure) on both Emirates’ 777 and A380, there’s just no comparison. At least for a 6ft 1 guy like me. The A380 is okay, the 777 is just horrible.

    Yeah, there are numerous airlines that fly to London from NZ, but will any offer the A380 with as short a stopover as Dubai will provide? I doubt it.

  16. Even though DXB-AKL is a new route, AKL is not a new EK destination since EK has been flying trans-Tasman flights for years. I do wonder if the DXB-SYD/MEL/BNE-AKL flights have suffered.
    I flew SYD-AKL last fall in J and it was half empty. The entire back area if J was empty. From talking to the FAs they told me the load factors tend to be light except during peak season.
    Sure there will always be demand for trans-Tasman but I’m not sure whether any of those flights average at over 80% loads unless EK’s pricing is lower than its competition. 😉

  17. That’s good news for me. My wife and I are booked on the DXB-AKL on the 29th of December and returning in February. I wasn’t looking forward to the 17 hour flight, even in business class the T7 is a bit cramped, three abreast seating!!!
    The A-380 is a much better aircraft, and I like the idea of being able to stretch your legs walking to the bar!

  18. Based on the amount of “local” traffic they have on their fifth-freedom flights to and from Australia, they might be discontinued as a consequence of this, or some of the EK-flights might be transferred to CHC-Christchurch on the South-Island, if there is any demand.
    I am not in to the rules & regulations, if you dis-continue a fifth-freedom flight, if they ever get to open it again?

  19. Just been on the web site today, and sure enough it’s now a 388 to AKL on the 27th December.
    That means it’s 388 all the way LHR-DXB-AKL and return.

  20. Would going straight through from Dubai to Auckland be cheaper than having to go in and out of Australia from Dubai to Auckland

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *