Emirates is set to fly its flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo to and from Melbourne next year, giving local travellers a taste of inflight opulence that only Sydney passengers have previously enjoyed.
From October next year, Emirates will put its A380 on the route between Dubai, Melbourne and Auckland. From Dubai, the A380s then fly onward to London and other European cities including Paris and Rome.
The A380 aircraft will service the existing direct Dubai-Melbourne-Auckland route, coded EK406 and EK407. The service will operating daily.
Emirates will maintain its two other daily services to Melbourne from Dubai, via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which will continue to be flown by the long-range Boeing 777-300ER.
From Melbourne, it will run the 489-seat superjumbo configured for 14 first class private cabins, 76 business flat-recliners (87-inch seat pitch) and 399 economy seats (32 to 33-inch seat pitch).
Running the A380 will add an extra 135 seats a flight over the present Boeing 777-300ER, and with the Melbourne service running daily, equates to an extra 50,000 seats a year, in round figures.
That's the equivalent uplift of an extra 140 B777 flights a year.
Emirates' Australasian vice president, Barry Brown, said running the bigger planes wasn't a way around the cap on flight rights imposed by aviation treaties.
Emirates has rights to operate 84 flights a week from Australia, and are presently running at 70 a week, he said.
The airline was simply responding to passenger demand from Melbourne for the flagship service, he said.
"I've heard for many years passengers say 'I'm not transiting over Sydney'," Mr Brown said. "I've got a very healthy complaint list that says, 'I've had to book two weeks in advance to get a business class seat on your A380'. I think that's a high-class problem for any airline manager to have."
And despite the extra seats, Mr Brown was confident in being able to maintain present load factors (how full a plane is) around the low 80-per cent mark.
Melbourne was "a natural progression after Sydney in the Australasian market, he said.
October was the earliest date an extra A380 would become available on the Emirates network, and Mr Brown was able to win internal competition from other Emirates' regional managers requests for an A380 service.
"I'm fighting the rest of the [Emirates] world who are putting their hand up for an A380," he said.
It will be one of its 20-strong A380 fleet, with the airline having placed orders for 70 more.
Passengers won't be asked to pay any extra premium for flying on the superjumbo, as the higher capacity seating allows for a lower "per-seat" running cost, including fuel burn, Mr Brown said.
Qantas, however, still enjoys more than double Emirates' market share of Australia's international travel, with Emirates at 7.8 per cent market share, government figurers show.
Qantas runs its A380 on selected flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles direct, and on the route from Melbourne to London via Singapore.
But Emirates is in striking range of its next closest rivals, Air New Zealand with 8.3 per cent and Singapore Airlines with 9 per cent market share.
"All of our sales teams have individual targets," said Mr Brown. "The more capacity we add to the Australian market and beyond Dubai, the more natural growth they'll be for Emirates. It's good to see the market-share indicators creeping up."
Emirates was the only airline to offer first class across the Tasman, Mr Brown said.
Upstairs in first class, Emirate's double-decker A380 uniquely includes two fully equipped apartment-style bathrooms with a shower, allowing well-heeled passengers to get naked and soap up at 37,000 feet for a fragrant arrival.
There's even a blind on the outside bathroom window.
"It's for modesty on the ground," Mr Brown said.
The cheapest way to sample the inflight shower would be to book a first class sector on a trans-Tasman flight (expected to be about $1300 one-way).
Emirates has been running the A380 on the Dubai-Sydney-Auckland route since 2009.
Melbourne airport last year upgraded its international departures terminal last year to include more reconfigured aerobridges to accommodate double-decker boarding for the A380.