Emirates Airline says its new option of an Asian holiday resort island stopover on the way to Dubai and beyond is a calculated gamble between business and leisure travel.
But one feature is pure business: the extra freight capacity available on new daily, year-round Auckland-Bali-Dubai route. It uses Boeing 777-300 aircraft that can carry up to 20 tonnes of perishable cargo, much more than what is available in the double-decker Airbus A380’s non-stop Auckland-Dubai service.
Passengers are the priority on this route and the aircraft has to carry extra fuel for a journey that takes 15-16 hours, depending on wind conditions.
By contrast, a higher payload is available with the Bali stop providing two hops of six-to-eight hours each.
While there’s potential in the Indonesian market for New Zealand exports such as cut flowers, fresh produce and chilled foods including fish, NBR was told Denpasar’s airport had limited storage and handling facilities.
This means all freight from New Zealand will go on to Dubai for transhipment to Europe and elsewhere.
Emirates Boeing B777-300ER welcomed at Auckland Airport on inaugural flight from Bali.
Emirates Airline executive vice president and chief commercial officer Thierry Antinori said the decision to fly through Bali was an opportunity waiting to be exploited, as Air New Zealand’s seasonal service is aimed primarily at Kiwis seeking an Asian holiday in winter.
“We saw this gap in the market,” he says, catering for foreign travellers wanting to come to New Zealand. “You can wait or act.”
Asked if the service will lack corporate appeal, Mr Antinori expects business passengers to take up the usual allotment of two-thirds business class seats to one-third leisure.
“Many of our customers are in business and travel this class when taking occasional long travel trips for leisure,” he says.
This backs up Emirates’ claim that its appeal is to well-heeled travellers who are prepared to pay for a bit of luxury on fewer journeys, rather than cut the costs of frequent travel.
This philosophy is behind Emirates’ commitment to the four-engined A380, which many airlines have avoided in favour of single-decked, twin-engined widebodied aircraft that use half as much fuel.
'Bar in the air'
Mr Antonori says the 380 provides more space and opportunities to introduce new products, such as its “bar in the air” in business class and suites with showers in first class.
Emirates has 103 A380s in its fleet, far more than any other airline, and has orders for a further 59. It also has the world’s largest fleet of B777s, as well as orders for the yet-to-be-built B777Xs and 787-10s, the “stretch” version of the Dreamliner.
“Many airlines are too afraid to invest in their product,” Mr Antinori says, referring to their lack of enthusiasm for the largest aircraft and preference to cut costs.
But he admits there’s a downside – “such a large aircraft is difficult to fill.” That’s a consideration when Emirates enters a new route with a high commitment.
“Flying every day is an easy message to understand,” he says. The new route also doubles Emirates' flights from Dubai to Bali, which has strong appeal to Europeans as well as the increasing middle classes in Africa and the Middle East,
Meanwhile, Emirates remains the only operator of an A380 across the Tasman on its Christchurch-Sydney-Dubai. Sources in the industry say it’s only a matter of time when that route also switches to a stopover elsewhere in Asia, possibly in Thailand.
That will depend on whether Emirates’ gamble with Bali succeeds and draws more thousands of tourists to New Zealand from the rest of the world.
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