Carry on: Christchurch’s driver-less Smart Shuttle, Emirates’ latest US gateway and more

Other business traveller news includes Air New Zealand's new Perth lounge and Hawaiian Airlines punctuality achievement.

Christchurch Airport unveils driverless vehicle
Christchurch Airport has unveiled the country’s first on-road research trial for fully autonomous passenger vehicles. The Smart Shuttle carries 15 people, has no steering wheel and is electric powered. It is being demonstrated by HMI Technologies and Australasian Driverless Vehicle Technologies. The trial will begin in the next few weeks on the airport’s private roads. Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns says the aim is to understand how autonomous vehicles might be used for various transport options.

Emirates finds new gateway to New York ...
Emirates has stirred up more trouble with US-based airlines by launching a second transatlantic service through a European airport. A new daily service from Dubai to Newark Liberty International Airport near New York will run via the Greek capital city of Athens from March 12. This will also restore a year-round non-stop daily air links between the US and Greece that ceased in 2012. Emirates already has a similar service via Milan and has four daily flights between Dubai and New York’s JFK airport. The new service through Athens will use Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Emirates operates to about a dozen European airports that do not have direct flights to the US, so watch this space.  

... and expands East African services
Meanwhile, Emirates is to increase its service to Nairobi, a favourite gateway to East Africa for New Zealanders. The third daily flight between Dubai and Kenya’s capital will operate from June 1. Emirates also flies once daily from Dubai to Entebbe in Uganda, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

Air NZ to open Perth lounge
Air New Zealand will open the first Star Alliance lounge in Perth later this year as part of a $100 million lounge development programme. This will have a similar design to other new lounges in Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. It is likely to have self-serve drinks and buffet dining as in Brisbane, as opposed to the fully-tended bar and barista-pulled coffee of its Sydney counterpart. Singapore Airlines has its own lounge in Perth but other Star Alliance airlines (Thai and SAA) now use the Qantas facility. Perth is headed to become more of an international hub later this year when Qantas starts non-stop flights to London.

Air NZ carries 1.6m passengers in December
The latest monthly traffic figures from Air New Zealand for December show total passenger numbers up 5.4% to 1.6 million on the previous year but revenue returns down once capacity increases are taken into account. Domestic operations improved most with revenue per passenger kilometres (RPKs) up 9.7% compared with a total increase of 2.4%. However, on a revenue based on capacity basis (RASK), short-haul routes decreased 6.3% and long haul 14.3%. Services to the west coast of the US were reduced while those to Japan were up, as were transtasman operations. Capacity also increased on domestic routes. Air New Zealand report its first-half financial result on February 23.

Hawaiian Airlines keeps best time
Hawaiian Airlines has topped a record financial year in 2016 with the accolade of the world’s most punctual carrier, as ranked by OAG. Its full-year net income of $US244.1 million (GAAP basis) was up $US90.8 million and passengers carried exceeded 11 million for the first time. During the year, the airline added one A330-200 aircraft, bringing the total fleet of that type to 23. Hawaiian also added two Boeing B717-200s. New routes included a daily nonstop service between Tokyo Narita and Honolulu and a tri-weekly service between Tokyo Haneda and Kona.

James Hogan to leave Etihad
Australian-born aviation executive James Hogan will depart later this year from Etihad Aviation Group, the parent company of Virgin Australia shareholder and alliance partner Etihad Airways. Mr Hogan is stepping down as president and chief executive along with chief financial officer James Rigney. Both are joining an unnamed investment company. Mr Hogan was chief executive of Etihad Airways from 2006-16 before moving to the group CEO role.

Tianjin doubles Gatwick flights
China’s Tianjin Airlines, which has just begun flying to Auckland, will double its flights to London Gatwick from June 19. The twice-weekly Tianjin-Xi'an-London Gatwick service will use A330-200 aircraft. Tianjin Airlines will also launch a three-times weekly Chongqing-Melbourne service on September 27.