Qatar Airways marked a “historic moment” on Monday as it launched its new record-breaking Auckland service on one of New Zealand’s most significant days of the year – Waitangi Day.
In a press statement, the Doha-based carrier said “a new chapter began in the airline’s history” as the first Qatar Airways flight touched down on the North Island of New Zealand just after sunrise.
The airline also said it was kicking off its 20th anniversary celebrations with the record-breaking flight.
Celebrations to commemorate the launch of the world’s longest commercial flight, which takes 17 hours and 30 minutes and covers a distance of 14,535km, began at the airport with a traditional water salute as the Qatar Airways Boeing 777 taxied down the runway.
Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar al-Baker travelled on board the inaugural flight from Doha to Auckland and was welcomed by Todd McClay, New Zealand’s Minister of Trade and State Owned Enterprises; and Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood.
On the occasion, al-Baker said: “The launch of our new service to Auckland is an important milestone for Qatar Airways as we expand both in the region and globally across our network providing more options and better connections to exciting business and leisure destinations in Europe and the Middle East.
“Arriving in Auckland on Waitangi Day, and achieving the title of world’s longest flight for the return record-breaking service, which covers a distance of 14,535km and lasts 17 hours and 30 minutes, makes this an even more momentous occasion for Qatar Airways and provides another accomplishment to celebrate in our 20th year of flying the flag internationally for Qatar.”
Jeremy Clarke-Watson, New Zealand’s ambassador to Qatar, added: "Welcoming Qatar Airways to New Zealand, through this direct service, is a significant event in the New Zealand-Qatar relationship – opening up greater people-to-people and business-to-business connections between our two countries.
“We look forward to welcoming more Qatari and GCC nationals to New Zealand, taking advantage of New Zealand’s 90-day tourist visitor visa on arrival for GCC citizens. We also look forward to working with Qatar Airways and New Zealand exporters to maximise the potential of the direct service’s freight capacity, which opens up a whole new market for our exporters, particularly in fresh food and beverage.”
Littlewood noted, “We welcome Qatar Airways to Auckland Airport and New Zealand. We expect this route to be very popular with visitors to New Zealand and with New Zealanders travelling, particularly between this country and Europe.”
Auckland is the first city in New Zealand to be served by Qatar Airways and will provide a gateway for travellers to visit the country, which is famous for its coastlines and forest landscapes.
The new daily flight to Auckland is served by a Boeing 777, which has a two-class configuration with 42 seats in Business Class and 217 seats in Economy Class.
Passengers travelling on the inaugural flight were welcomed on board with special cupcakes; in addition, guests travelling in Business Class received a celebratory Kiwi Rose Fizz mocktail, both created to commemorate the new service. Bespoke menu cards and beverage lists inspired by a traditional Maori carving were also designed especially for the occasion.
The Doha-Auckland-Doha daily services will offer 116 tonnes of belly-hold capacity every week to support the growing imports of raw, industrial and consumer materials into New Zealand. At the Hamad International Airport cargo terminal, Qatar Airways Cargo offers QR Fresh, a “seamless temperature-controlled handling and storage solution”, to deliver perishable products such as dairy produce, meat and fruits from Auckland into the Middle East and on to major European cities.
The inaugural flight’s arrival from Doha into Auckland Airport was captured by New Zealand’s leading aerial cinematography specialist, Tony Monk, who filmed the Boeing 777’s approach and descent on to the runway.
Monk is best known for his aerial photography work and cinematography for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, and has been awarded an accolade for Services and Safety to the Film Industry.
Qatar Airways is also encouraging passengers planning to travel to New Zealand to include a stopover in Doha as part of their journey. With a new transit visa scheme offering visitors a free transit visa for up to 96 hours, it is now even easier to combine a quick visit to Doha with a trip to New Zealand.
The Doha-Auckland flight schedule (daily) is as follows: QR0920 departing Doha at 2.50am and arriving in Auckland at 5am (+1), and QR0921 departing Auckland at 2.40pm and arriving in Doha at 10.10pm.
Auckland is the first new destination launch of the year for Qatar Airways, which added 14 new destinations in 2016 and plans to launch more in 2017/18, including Yanbu and Tabuk, Saudi Arabia; Dublin, Ireland; Nice, France; Skopje, Macedonia; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina; Libreville, Gabon; Douala, Cameroon; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Canberra, Australia; Medan, Indonesia; and Las Vegas, US.
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