Competition between giant Gulf airlines heats up

Following the announcement by Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker at the Bahrain Air Show earlier this month that the airline was going to launch flights later this year between Doha and New Zealand’s city of Auckland, it did not take long for rival Emirates to react.

Dubai’s national airline will on the fast-track now also launch daily nonstop flights to Auckland, as early as March 1; in other words, just 5 weeks from now. Rarely has there been such a short time between the initial announcement of a new long-haul destination and the actual inaugural flight, but it seems competition has made the impossible possible after all.

Emirates will use a Boeing B777-200LR for the 16-hour flight – the return service is said to take 17 hours and 15 minutes – the same aircraft type Qatar Airways was proposing to use. Yet unlike Emirates, Qatar has not set a date yet, nor has it named a date for flights to Chile’s capital Santiago, which was mentioned by the Qatar Airways Group CEO at the same time when he announced plans to fly to New Zealand.

Either way, East Africans keen to visit Hobbit Land – the two trilogies “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” were both shot in New Zealand near Auckland in the town of Matamata – will soon be spoiled for choice how to get there and by 2 of the world’s leading airlines – Emirates and five-star Qatar Airways. The latter, though coming late on the route, may, however, still make headlines with this flight when eventually launched, as it may well become the world’s longest nonstop service, with sources in Doha speaking of a flying time of over 18 hours. This will dwarf Emirates’ record attempt when they launch their nonstop flights to Panama City in March, due to take some 17 hours and 35 minutes.

Emirates uses only wide-body aircraft on all their routes and serves Entebbe, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam, while Qatar Airways, which deploys an Airbus A320 to Eastern Africa, serves Entebbe, Kigali, Nairobi, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar.