Emirates dropping Brisbane and Melbourne to Auckland services

Emirates will soon only serve Auckland nonstop from Dubai. (Gary Hollier)

Emirates says it is further reducing trans-Tasman services in favour of more Qantas-operated flights as part of the pair’s global alliance.

The airline will cease daily Melbourne-Auckland and Brisbane-Auckland flights by March 2018, leaving Sydney-Christchurch as its only trans-Tasman service, having dropped Sydney-Auckland in June.

Further, Emirates has also flagged more nonstop services between Dubai and New Zealand as part of its network changes. It currently operates an Airbus A380 Auckland-Dubai nonstop service, the second-longest scheduled airline flight in the world by distance.

In their place will be seven more Qantas flights a week on the Melbourne route, and two additional services on the Brisbane route, the two carriers said in a joint-statement on Wednesday.

The move represents a capacity reduction on the Tasman given Qantas operates a mix of Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A330s on its Australia-New Zealand services, which have fewer seats than Emirates’ A380 flights.

Emirates said the end of its own flights between Auckland and Australia would allow for schedule changes for a “better spread of departure times” on services to and from its Dubai hub.

Further, the airline said it was “evaluating potential new direct services between New Zealand and Dubai”.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the changes reflected “customer demand, new aircraft technology and our respective network strengths”.

“The premise of the partnership has always been that we could serve our customers better together. That’s certainly been true for the past five years and now we’re evolving our joint network so we can serve them even better for the next five,” Joyce said in a statement

The changes are part of the the pair’s application to authorities in Australia and New Zealand to extend the alliance that was first struck in 2013 for a further five years, and which also cover previously announced return to Sydney-Singapore-London Heathrow flights and the start of Melbourne-Perth-London Heathrow Boeing 787-9 services.

“Reauthorisation of the partnership will allow us to leverage our combined network strengths to offer customers even more flight choices and reciprocal benefits for our millions of frequent flyer members,” Emirates president Sir Tim Clark said.

That pullback in seats should be welcomed by Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia, who have a joint-venture on trans-Tasman routes.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon noted recently the airline’s trans-Tasman network had been “very challenged for about a year” and suffered a weak 2016/17 first half due to increased competitive capacity and a decline in connecting passengers because of new direct services to New Zealand. However, Luxon there have been some improvements since then, albeit off a low base.

In addition to the cuts from Emirates, some fifth-freedom operators have also decided to pull out of the trans-Tasman market. China Airlines is due to end its Sydney to Christchurch service at the end of October, with Sydney-Auckland to wind up at the start of December.

And Philippine Airlines is switching its Manila-Cairns-Auckland rotation in favour of a nonstop Manila-Auckland offering from December 6.