Emirates expects to bring its Airbus A380s back to Australia and New Zealand from late 2021, with superjumbo services now selling between Dubai and Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Christchurch.
The airline is also gearing up for more Brisbane flights, as well as the return of non-stop links between Dubai and Auckland, and trans-Tasman hops between Sydney and Christchurch.
These ambitious changes are set to take wing between October 31 and November 2 – the start date varying slightly by route and direction of travel – ahead of what’s normally the peak Australian summer travel period.
It’s a timeline that aligns closely with the expectations of Emirates’ joint venture partner Qantas, which is also selling seats to most international destinations from late October, being when the Australian rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in adults was first expected to be complete.
Even so, it’s a bold move for the world’s largest operator of the world’s largest passenger plane – particularly for an airline that relies on connecting travellers around the globe, at a time where one third of all countries are closed to tourists – but clearly, Emirates expects that to change, and change quickly.
Here’s what the airline currently has planned for each city.
Emirates’ Airbus A380 returns to Sydney
From November 1, Emirates will add a daily Airbus A380 service from Dubai to Sydney, complementing the carrier’s existing Boeing 777-300ER flights, which will also continue at five times per week.
For Sydneysiders jetting to Dubai and beyond, that A380 becomes available on departures from November 2.
The flight numbers to look are EK413 from Sydney – an evening departure, early morning arrival – and EK412 from Dubai, both of which are now on sale:
EK415/EK414, on the other hand, are Boeing 777 flights.
ET review: Emirates Airbus A380 business class
Sydney-Christchurch gets the superjumbo service
Prior to COVID-19, Emirates had served Christchurch via Sydney, with a single aircraft carrying passengers from Dubai to Sydney and onward to Christchurch, and vice versa.
That plan is back on the map from November, with Sydney’s A380 flights (EK413/EK412) once again connecting Christchurch.
As before, this also gives travellers the option to book an Emirates A380 solely between Sydney and Christchurch – without travelling to Dubai – with these flights selling from November 2:
However, it remains to be seen whether the governments of Australia and New Zealand would permit trans-Tasman travellers to take such flights without the need to quarantine, as quarantine-free travel across the ditch is currently restricted to designated ‘green lane’ flights only.
Of course, the same can be said of the Australian Government for all international routes, including those that Emirates expects to ramp up later this year.
Melbourne goes all-A380 with Emirates
From November 1 (and October 31 ex-Dubai), Emirates will upgrade its existing Melbourne-Dubai services from the Boeing 777 to the Airbus A380.
These flights – EK408 from Dubai, and EK409 from Melbourne – will run daily, bringing back the popular onboard shower spas for first class flyers, and the iconic bar and lounge area for both first and business class travellers.
While Emirates paused access to these amenities on Airbus A380 flights last year in response to COVID-19, the airline restored these services on Airbus A380 flights in late 2020.
ET review: Emirates' A380 first class 'shower spa'
The change means that all Emirates flights to and from Melbourne will be operated by the A380 from November, under Emirates’ current plans.
Perth gets A380s, and more Emirates flights
Like Melbourne, Perth will have its current Boeing 777 flights swapped for the A380.
This is scheduled from October 31 in each direction, on Emirates flights EK420 inbound to Australia, and EK421 outbound.
The move will also give Perth travellers more choice on timing, with the A380s set to fly daily: a significant upgrade to Emirates’ three-times-weekly Boeing 777 flights in the month prior.
ET review: Emirates Airbus A380 first class
Brisbane flights boosted, but no A380s for now
Brisbane is another destination seeing more Emirates flights from later this year, as the airline pushes from three flights per week to a daily service as of October 30 from Dubai, and October 31 from the Queensland capital.
However, Brisbane won’t see a return of Emirates’ A380s for now, with these services all scheduled as Boeing 777-300ER flights.
ET review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER business class
Auckland-Kuala Lumpur-Dubai ditches the stopover
In a welcome move for many Kiwi travellers, Emirates’ flights between Auckland and Dubai will go non-stop, removing the current detour via Kuala Lumpur in each direction.
On the plus side, this shaves hours from each journey, not to mention removing a transit country from the itinerary, being one less barrier to entry in many foreign countries, where entry restrictions would apply based on travel history.
But on the other, the move involves a swap from Emirates’ three-class Boeing 777-300ERs to the airline’s two-class Boeing 777-200LRs.
This means first class will not be available on flights from Dubai to Auckland from October 31, and from Auckland to Dubai from November 1 under current schedules.
Business class passengers, of course, would see the change as a step up, trading the 2-3-2 layout of the 777-300ER (with either an angled-flat or fully-flat bed, based on chance) to a more favourable 2-2-2 configuration and a guaranteed flatbed seat on those flights.
ET review: Emirates Boeing 777-200LR business class
Emirates' broader global network
The return of Airbus A380s onto the airline’s flights to Australia and New Zealand – as well as those rejigs to other non-A380 routes – come as part of a sweeping schedule change loaded into booking systems by the airline this week.
This sees the airline also planning to return its Airbus A380s to destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore under a similar timeframe, as well as to many cities across Europe, including key business destinations such as Frankfurt and Zurich.
Emirates flights to Adelaide, however, remain suspended.
A spokesperson for the airline previously told Executive Traveller that “we hope to restart our operations in Adelaide when it is commercially and operationally feasible to do so in the future.”
Adelaide is “one amongst many cities where Emirates operations remain suspended due to ongoing travel or flight restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Emirates’ previous ‘fifth freedom’ flights between Melbourne and Singapore also remain off the cards for now, although Emirates passengers can book codeshare flights on this route operated by Qantas from late 2021.