Air New Zealand is confident of holding onto its half of the trans-Tasman travel pie, despite the presence of Emirates' Airbus A380 superjumbos – replete with business class seats and first class suites – darting daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Auckland and back.
"The Tasman has always been a very contested piece of water," observes Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon, speaking to Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of an international Star Alliance media briefing in Frankfurt, "but we've been able to maintain our share pretty well on the Tasman."
Alongside partner Virgin Australia the Star Alliance member claims 52% of Australians flying to New Zealand and back.
"The real challenge is the a number of 'fifth freedom' flyers that are on the route now," Luxon adds – flights which, under commercial aviation rights, permit an airline from one country to carry passengers between two other countries.
Emirates is the most noticeable of these fifth freedom players across the Tasman, buoyed by its Qantas partnership.
But the colossus of the Middle East "is not a big threat to us," Luxon believes, "because we fly our wide-bodied aircraft – the Boeing 777-300ER and 787 Dreamliner – over in the morning and back in the evening for our corporate customers, and those have an excellent business class with lie-flat beds."
"And we do have corporate customers who opt for those flights. If I'm going to Sydney for the day I tend to go out on the 6am or 7am flight and then be back home at midnight."
The rest of the daily schedule is given over to the smaller all-economy Airbus A320 jets, which Luxon says provide "massive frequency throughout the day and also work from a schedule point of view... whereas I think some of the the fifth freedom flying is a way to subsidise and recover some costs but the schedule doesn’t always work for a business traveller."
"So it's not a big issue, it's just that the amount of added capacity coming into the Tasman from those players is the challenge."
David Flynn travelled to Frankfurt as a guest of Star Alliance.
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