Flying non-stop for 14 hours may appear to be a daunting task to some.

With innovations – the world's first enclosed suites in first class, revolutionary mood lighting that helps adjust body clocks and minimises jet lag, an advanced in-flight entertainment system that offers more than 500 channels, and extraordinarily comfortable seats with an in-built massage system – the journey can be more of a joyride.

An Emirates aircraft sits on the tarmac at Christchurch airport after its inaugural flight to the New Zealand city recently. ©Gulf News
Indeed, comfort and fine hospitality, coupled with these outstanding new in-flight features, promise a pleasurable flying experience for all those making their way to the southern hemisphere on board EK 406, the Emirates A340-500 long-haul flight to Christchurch via Melbourne that departs Dubai at 10:10am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, arriving in Melbourne at 5:30am the next day.

EK406 then continues on to Christchurch, departing from Melbourne at 7:15am on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, landing in Christchurch at 12:30pm.

The return flight, EK407, will take off from Christchurch on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 6:05 pm and land in Melbourne at 7:45pm.

From Melbourne, the flight will depart for Dubai at 9:30pm, arriving at 5:40am. the next day. From August 16, EK406 will operate Mondays through Saturdays from Dubai and Tuesdays through Sundays from Melbourne.

EK406, which departed Dubai on July 1 at about 11 am, was Emirates' second New Zealand destination in 12 months. Auckland joined the airline's route network in August last year.

With the arrival of the flight, Christchurch also became the 77th destination to join Emirates' expanding network. Speaking aboard the flight, Gaith Al Gaith, executive vice-president of commercial operations worldwide, who was accompanying a media delegation to Christchurch, said Emirates was also looking closely at more destinations such as Adelaide, in the southern hemisphere.

Regarding Emirates' expansion plans, Al Gaith said the Dubai-based international airline was set to focus on North America. "We have a very large number of aircraft in hand and we know exactly where to use them. It is just a question of prioritising.


"In Dubai, we have an excellent product in hand and our main objective is to connect this dynamic hub to as many places in the world as possible.

"The government's aim is to bring in 15 million visitors by the year 2010. With every new destination, Emirates is helping the Dubai government close in on its target.

"Christchurch is the gateway for outdoor and adventure tourism on New Zealand's South Island, and we anticipate our new service catering to this growing demand," Al Gaith said.

The connection to Christchurch comes as a convenient extension of Emirates' Dubai-Melbourne non-stop service, which the airline also operates with A340-500 aircraft.

With this, Emirates will offer a total of 27 flights a week to New Zealand starting next month.

The airline flies to Auckland daily via Sydney, daily via Singapore and Brisbane and daily via Singapore and Melbourne.

Speaking at the press conference in Christchurch after the plane landed, Jim Anderton, New Zealand's Minister of Economic Development, and George Bellew, chief executive for Christchurch International Airport Limited, extended a warm welcome to Emirates, calling it a "long-term partnership" with the airline.

"We are absolutely delighted to welcome Emirates to Christchurch. This service brings Christchurch to within one stop of what can be described as Europe's most easterly hub.

"Dubai is one of the dynamos of the Middle East, and Emirates is already one of the world's leading airlines, with a strong reputation for service and quality. We welcome Emirates to our shores," Bellew said.

The A340-500 aircraft being used on the new route carries 12 first class, 42 business and 204 economy passengers, 14 tonnes of cargo, and will offer 3,600 seats a week.

Emirates has invested $1.8 billion in its fleet of A340-500s to ensure its long-haul passengers travel in maximum comfort.