AirNZ CEO: Emirates' trans-Tasman A380 flights 'not a big threat'

By David Flynn, May 18 2017
AirNZ CEO: Emirates' trans-Tasman A380 flights 'not a big threat'

Air New Zealand is confident of holding onto its half of the trans-Tasman travel pie, despite the presence of Emirates' Airbus A380 superjumbos – replete with business class seats and first class suites – darting daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Auckland and back.

"The Tasman has always been a very contested piece of water," observes Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon, speaking to Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of an international Star Alliance media briefing in Frankfurt, "but we've been able to maintain our share pretty well on the Tasman."

Alongside partner Virgin Australia the Star Alliance member claims 52% of Australians flying to New Zealand and back.

"The real challenge is the a number of 'fifth freedom' flyers that are on the route now," Luxon adds – flights which, under commercial aviation rights, permit an airline from one country to carry passengers between two other countries.

Emirates is the most noticeable of these fifth freedom players across the Tasman, buoyed by its Qantas partnership.

But the colossus of the Middle East "is not a big threat to us," Luxon believes, "because we fly our wide-bodied aircraft – the Boeing 777-300ER and 787 Dreamliner – over in the morning and back in the evening for our corporate customers, and those have an excellent business class with lie-flat beds."

"And we do have corporate customers who opt for those flights. If I'm going to Sydney for the day I tend to go out on the 6am or 7am flight and then be back home at midnight."

The rest of the daily schedule is given over to the smaller all-economy Airbus A320 jets, which Luxon says provide "massive frequency throughout the day and also work from a schedule point of view... whereas I think some of the the fifth freedom flying is a way to subsidise and recover some costs but the schedule doesn’t always work for a business traveller."

"So it's not a big issue, it's just that the amount of added capacity coming into the Tasman from those players is the challenge."

David Flynn travelled to Frankfurt as a guest of Star Alliance.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 340

When I first saw the headline, I thought to myself, what arrogance. However, when you read further, he does have a point as they seem to have both frequency (A320's) and high end biz class covered (B777 & B787) 


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 732

I still think what arrogance, none of his aircraft offerings offer what 1 Emirates A380 does.  I know how I always get to Auckland.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1501

Well if you have enough points to burn then why not. However paying money for First to just leap the pond? Thanks, not for me.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

The A380 is a nice way to cross the Tasman but it is not a serious business alternative due to its timing.  For AU business people it arrives into AKL too late and it is better to fly over the evening before.  The return service timing is good however.  

For NZ business people, it is not particularly convenient either way.  Due to the time difference, they can get an early departure on NZ or VA (or QF) out of NZ and still make a morning appointment in MEL or SYD and EK does not offer an evening return service either so unless they want to spend another night in AU and lose most of the next day, EK is useless.

19 Sep 2012

Total posts 6

New Zealand is more than just Auckland. No trans-tasman business / premium economy out of any other centres with Air NZ is a big negative.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2017

Total posts 5

Absolute arrogance but that is just NZ, he does not say that AKL is the only place to get the wide body across the Tasman on their metal. You cant beat EK on Tasman. QF/EK only choice for me to Ch-Ch and timings are perfect. 

21 Sep 2011

Total posts 71

Nothing stops NZ from doing their own fifth freedom flying especially out of Australia. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2012

Total posts 159

If flying economy, give me an Air New Zealand A320 any time. If Koru or FF, then seats on left hand side of plane offer more leg room, entertainment is good and drinks can be ordered from seat. Also far less people to board the plane than an A380. In business class, however I would rather take Emirates. Lounge offers a more comprehensive food offering, the bar on board is a differentiating factor and seats/entertainment are good.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 622

In Trans Tasman mkt:

U get the best product @ similar fare level but the schedule choose U, not the other way around.

NZ, QF and other local players=
U get much worse product than EK but U or your meeting across the strait choose the most other normal consumer services.

NZ is right.  Until EK hv unlimited frequency freedom in Trans-Tasman mkt, they won't be a big threat.

As a regular traveller back and forth nz-sydney, depending on the class you travel on, and depending on the airline, quantas, air nz, emirates.. I find that air nz flights business/econonmy to be much friendlier and the food is scrumptious,so in this aspect - Quantas, Emirates and the rest at this stage, need to catch up. CEO statement is positive and indicative of how air nz reigns the air in this aspect.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Jul 2012

Total posts 15

Emirates business on the A380 offers more privacy and you can actually see out the window, versus Air New Zealand business that face everybody else like I am sitting in a waitng room with my back to the window.

No brainer, Emirates it is.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jan 2017

Total posts 73

Used EK a few times MEL-AKL in Y basically because I am in love with A380s and the price at the time was good. J is hard to justify for 3hr flight.

However not EK again. Infrequent services, unreliable departures up to 4hrs late in some cases, very poor unfriendly on-board service, dirty cabins and unhygienic practices by crew.
Much prefer QF or NZ.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2017

Total posts 5

One of the beauties of the EK A380 is you can book five QF business rewards seats as QF Bronze on points. We have done this as for a trip in March 2018. Coming back mama and papa are first class (30th wedding anniversary) and the 3 (adult) children will have to slum it in business. Child abuse or what?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2017

Total posts 5

PS We did Sydney Christchurch and Wellington Sydney QF business in March 2017 on points - great service but poor seats.

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