Emirates’ flagship A380 made a landmark touchdown at Christchurch Airport yesterday, marking the resumption of its daily service from Dubai to Christchurch via Sydney after more than three Covid years.

The special service was greeted by a crowd of spectators at the Christchurch Airport boundary, who watched as the iconic A380 taxied through a ceremonial water canon salute, before parking in view of trade, media, and VIP guests at the international terminal.

Outbound EK412 left Dubai at 1015 local time, stopping briefly in Sydney before arriving in Christchurch at 1355 hours the next day, New Zealand time.

On board the first flight back to Christchurch, Barry Brown, divisional vice president Australasia, Emirates, said: “Seeing the water cannon salute after we touched down in the first Emirates A380 flight in more than three years is a reminder of how special the aircraft is to Christchurch, since its first arrival in 2016. The significance of the occasion was also clear on the faces of the other passengers on board, who understood what this service means for Christchurch and connecting it to the world.”

“Not only has Christchurch again become the smallest city on Emirates’ A380 network, but New Zealand is now the first country on our network to exclusively carry our four cabin A380 and our best product yet. The phenomenal customer response from the moment tickets went on sale, both in and out of Christchurch, speak to a city in high demand.”

“The return of the Emirates A380 service is a great boost for Christchurch and the wider South Island. It shows we’re open for business and welcoming travellers after several years of Covid restrictions,” said Christchurch mayor, Phil Mauger.

“The return of the Emirates A380 aircraft is a significant moment for Christchurch and the South Island. Resuming the daily service offers South Islanders access from Christchurch Airport to dozens of the world’s most famous cities in the famous Emirates style. After the A380’s inaugural arrival in October 2016, people came to the airport every day to admire and photograph the aircraft,” commented Christchurch Airport chief, Justin Watson.

The resumption of the Dubai to Christchurch route headlines a planned ramping up of seating capacity across Emirates’ global network, after boosting operations 31 per cent (total ASKMs) since the beginning of its financial year.

This operational boost included the re-introduction of Emirates’ nonstop A380 route from Auckland to Dubai in December of last year.

Emirates’ A380 return to Christchurch is also welcome news for South Island producers, with the airline’s cargo division again supporting the export of 15 to 18 tonnes of daily goods across the Tasman.

Both North and South Island customers will now have direct access to daily Emirates A380 services, providing greater levels of flexibility and choice when making travel plans and providing seamless connectivity and reduced transit time when travelling to other destinations across the airline’s global network, including destinations in Europe and the Middle East.

Travellers looking to venture beyond the airline’s gateways will also have more connection opportunities to 55 cities across Australia and New Zealand through Emirates’ long-standing partnership with Qantas.

The A380 flight operates as EK412 and EK413. Emirates flight EK412 departs Dubai at 10:15, arriving in Sydney at 0700. The flight will then continue, taking off from Sydney at 0845, arriving in Christchurch at 1355. EK413 will then depart Christchurch at 1820, arriving in Sydney at 1940. The final leg of EK413 will depart to Dubai at 2145, arriving at 0515 local time.

Customers in Christchurch will not only be able to enjoy the airline’s flagship aircraft, but will also experience the debut of the carrier’s premium economy cabin and latest products across every class of travel.

Emirates has been flying to New Zealand for 20 years, a sign of its ongoing commitment to the market.