Carry on: Queenstown night flights, Qantas Dreamliner's Melbourne debut and more

The weekly travel news roundup also includes a makeover at Whangarei Airport and more "sunseeker" flights from Christchurch to Rarotonga.  

Queenstown to get more night flights
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia will add 38 night-flights a week between Australia and Queenstown during the 2017 ski season. Virgin Australia will operate a night-time departure from Queenstown to Brisbane on Fridays and Sundays between June and September 2017 while Air New Zealand has scheduled night-time Queenstown-Sydney flights for Saturdays and Sundays during the month of July.

Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Colin Keel says the new flights will add 5500 extra seats over the four weeks. “We saw a great uptake by Australians in the evening flights offered from Melbourne, with people coming here to make the most of the extended operating hours, staying and skiing for longer," he says. 

“The addition of Sydney and Brisbane to the evening flight options means even more people can jump on an afternoon flight, go night skiing and still have another two full days on the mountains before flying home on Sunday evening. This helps increase the length of stay in the region, which benefits a number of businesses in the community.”

Meanwhile, Queenstown Airport continues to set passenger number records. Total passengers in November were up 16% year-on-year, while over the 12 months they reached nearly 1.8 million, a 19% increase on the previous corresponding period. Domestic and international traffic rose about the same in November.

Makeover at Whangarei Airport
The half government-owned Whangarei Airport has had a $1 million makeover. The internal improvements include additional seating space for passengers, new bathrooms, and a larger internal baggage claim area. Outside, there are more taxi ranks and footpaths, and the pathways have been made safer. There is also a second airport entry and a car park extension. On the tarmac, aircraft taxiways have been resurfaced in order to better accommodate the larger aircraft now operating at the airport.

Virgin renews ‘sunseeker’ flights to Cooks Islands
Virgin Australia will again offer a weekly flight on Saturdays to Rarotonga from Christchurch for 17 weeks from June 24 to October 13. Christchurch Airport’s chief aeronautical and commercial officer, Justin Watson, says the “sun seeker” service has been popular with South Islanders escaping the winter.

Melbourne debut for long-range Dreamliner
Qantas says the first of its new fleet of long-range Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will operate the Melbourne-Los Angeles route from December 15 next year. It will carry 236 passengers in a three-class configuration and complement the daily Airbus A380 service already flying from Melbourne to Los Angeles. Operating six times per week, the Dreamliner will replace the 747 service that operates on this route alongside the A380.

Qantas to axe Melbourne-London?
Qantas could axe its daily Melbourne-London via Dubai flights from early 2018 once its Perth-London direct nonstop flight comes on stream in March 2018. Emirates would fill the gap with its two daily A380 flights between Melbourne and Dubai and a third using a Boeing 777-300ER. One of those A380 services flies on to Auckland.

Emirates settles A380 engine dispute
Emirates has struck a deal to accept deliveries of Airbus A380 aircraft powered by the new Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, two weeks later than planned. Emirates had earlier refused delivery after raising performance and maintenance concerns. Airline president Tim Clark says the two parties have come to a satisfactory conclusion. “Rolls is taking care of everything, so we are neutral to the repercussions,” he says.

Emirates has 50 orders for A380s equipped with the Rolls-Royce engines after switching from the competing GP7000 turbine manufactured by an alliance of General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. Meanwhile, Mr Clark says Emirates expects to introduce a premium economy service within 12-18 months. "We are at the stage of finding what form it will take," he says.

Virgin Australia codeshares with Air Canada
Virgin Australia and Air Canada have agreed to codeshare flights from Los Angeles to Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montréal on Air Canada and Virgin Australia services connecting with Air Canada flights inbound to Brisbane and Sydney. The agreement is expected to expand to include Air Canada's direct flights from Vancouver to Australia.

Fiji widens American codeshare
Fiji Airways and American Airlines have expanded their codeshare partnership to include 15 domestic routes in the US from the gateways of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
They are: from 
Los Angeles to Atlanta, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Portland or Seattle; from 
San Francisco to Charlotte, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Ft Worth, Miami, New York JFK, Philadelphia
and Phoenix.

Route news of the week
Cathay Pacific will switch its A330-300 aircraft for a new A350-900 on its Hong Kong-Brisbane route from March 27, 2017. Cathay Pacific is also expanding its services to the UK while switching its aircraft from Boeing 777-300ERs to Airbus A350-900s, Hong Kong-London Gatwick will Increase from four times a week to daily from May 31
and Hong Kong-Manchester Increase from four to five times weekly from June 2. Qatar Airways will introduce an Airbus A380 to its daily Doha-Melbourne route from June 30, 2017. It will replace a Boeing 777-300ER. Qatar has also launched a daily Doha-Seychelles service, its 14th new destination this year. Seychelles International Airport is located on the island of Mahé near the capital of Victoria, Singapore Airlines will extend its Singapore-Moscow Domodedovo route to Stockholm from May 30, 2017, using an Airbus A350-900 aircraft. Virgin Atlantic has abandoned its summer seasonal London Heathrow-Chicago O’Hare service. It was scheduled to run from May 12 and October 16, 2017.