Emirates plans to boost flights to pre-pandemic levels to Melbourne and Sydney amid soaring international travel demand to and from Australia, emphasising the airline's continued recovery across its network.
The world's largest long-haul airline will increase daily services from Melbourne, starting on March 26, from two to three flights from its Dubai hub via Singapore, Emirates said on Monday.
It will also add a third direct service to Sydney from May 1. The two services will operate on a Boeing-777 300ER.
The carrier will also restart services to Christchurch, New Zealand, via Sydney from March 26, offering a new path across the trans-Tasman route and the only opportunity to fly the Airbus A380 between the two cities.
Emirates said it would operate 63 weekly services to Australia by the middle of the year from 49 weekly flights currently, with the capacity to fly more than 55,000 passengers a week to and from its major cities, paving the way for its return as the largest foreign carrier operating in the country.
"We continue to record significant demand for our services, so we’re dedicated to offering Australians and travellers more options to travel, including the likes of our new Premium Economy cabin, with Australia being one of the first markets to be offered this class," said Adnan Kazim, chief commercial officer at Emirates.
Adding a third daily service to Sydney and Melbourne will offer more than 500,000 additional seats to and from Australia in a year, he said.
Seat load factors on Emirates' Australia and New Zealand flights to and from Dubai and beyond have been "very healthy", with flights "usually running at near-full loads", an airline spokeswoman told The National, without providing figures.
Load factors are a measure of how well an airline is filling available seats.
The demand for international travel for Australia has bounced back after the country eased pandemic-related restrictions in February 2022.
Australia recorded 2.2 million visitors for the year ending September 2022, a jump of 1184 per cent compared to the year ending September 2021, reaching 24 per cent of pre-Covid levels, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Airport operators in Melbourne and Sydney welcome Emirates' move to add more capacity to the two cities in terms of both passenger and cargo services.
"The resumption of the Melbourne to Singapore route means Emirates will operate three daily flights from Melbourne, returning to pre-Covid levels of capacity," said Lorie Argus, Melbourne Airport's chief executive.
“It provides extra capacity for the strong demand we’re seeing for travel from Melbourne to Europe and Asia. It’s also great news for Victorian exporters, with the Boeing 777-300 aircraft providing additional freight opportunities into Asia and the Middle East," he said.
Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said Emirates' additional capacity on the Sydney-Dubai route will give passengers access to the carrier's global network.
“These extra flights are another important step towards Australia’s international aviation recovery, providing much needed additional capacity to meet the high demand for travel," he said.
"It is great to see that both visitors and Australians will have more choice available in time for the start of the European summer and the NSW winter school holidays."
Emirates' A380 return on the trans-Tasman route after a pandemic-induced three-year hiatus will add extra seats to meet the strong demand for travel between Sydney and New Zealand, he said.
There were 1,157,000 international passengers passing through the Sydney airport in December 2022, more than three times the number in December 2021, the airport monthly traffic data showed.
In terms of airline capacity serving Australia, this has increased 177.5 per cent in September 2022 year-on-year to 619 weekly flights, according to the latest data from Tourism Australia.