The world’s largest international airline is warning Kiwis to book their holidays now, or risk being disappointed with sold out flights.
Emirates has a fleet of more than 250 long haul jets, including 120 A380s – the largest passenger plane in the world.
Last week it announced the A380 would return to Christchurch in December. Direct Auckland to Dubai flights, using a 777, will also resume in December. Before Covid-19, this was run by an A380.
Emirates’ New Zealand boss Chris Lethbridge said the airline would schedule direct flights to Auckland tomorrow if they could, “but at the stage where we’re in the queue.”
“There’s a number of factors around bringing all of our A380s back into the fleet, and one of the main drivers is getting the crew back on board.”
The airline has, for some months, been on a campaign to recruit 6000 crew, and has reportedly received more than 300,000 applications.
Until the resumption of direct New Zealand flights at the end of the year, Emirates is operating a service from Auckland to Dubai via Kuala Lumpur using a 777-300ER.
Lethbridge is warning airlines are taking time to retrain crew and get planes in the sky, while facing significant demand. “The recovery has been extraordinary, to the point our message really is book now and book early to avoid disappointment.
“People are certainly booking for the European summer, and we’re now seeing a really healthy increase for the peak Christmas period as well.”
Last week’s move by the Government to bring forward the full border reopening will lead to another spike in bookings, Lethbridge said.
“We anticipate there’ll be more demand this year because so many people have missed out on that experience [of travelling] for two and a half years.”
Lethbridge also had some good news for fans of the A380 – he thinks they have a bright future.
Early in the pandemic, it was questioned whether A380s would return to New Zealand at all, as airlines increasingly turn to more fuel-efficient twin-engine jets – like the 787 and A350 – instead of the four-engine A380.
However, Lethbridge thinks the plane will be in huge demand in a post-Covid world, explaining a lot of major infrastructure projects at airports around the world have been delayed by the pandemic.
“The A380 is going to be, in my view, an even more critical aircraft, because if you take the A380 out of service, you in effect have to replace it with two aircraft, it involves more slots, it involves more gates.
“In actual fact, I think, the best thing we could do is extend out the airframe life of the aeroplane, would be my view.”
Short haul international travel is also facing a boom, with most flights across the Tasman sold out in May.
House of Travel Chief Operating Officer Brent Thomas said it was evident there was still not enough airline capacity on trans-Tasman routes.
“The demand is far outstretching the supply,” he said.