Emirates launched a new direct service to Auckland this morning and the return flight will climb to the top of the league of ultra-long-haul flights.
While the eastbound service from Dubai clocks in at just under 16 hours – 20 minutes less than Abu Dhabi’s flight to Los Angeles – the return is blocked at a marathon 17 hours 15 minutes.
To mark the milestone, Emirates laid on an A380 today, although normally the non-stop flight will be operated by a B777-200LR, which has significantly less seats (266). The airline operates four other services to Auckland (three A380s via Australia and a daily Christchurch flight on B777-300ERs).
Emirates looks set to beat its own record at the end of the month, however, when it starts Panama City direct flights, and the westbound flight will take 17 hours 35 minutes.
Fuel-efficient technologies and cheaper oil are driving the growth in ultra-long-haul, and the timing benefits – the direct Auckland flight shaves almost three hours each way – are alluring for carriers.
But it remains to be seen how passengers, particularly in economy, react to spending longer in the air, especially as airlines are already grappling with medical-related diversions.