Dreamliner favoured for next Dunedin Aurora Australis flight

Aurora Australis From ISS. Credit: ISS

Organisers of tonight’s inaugural Dunedin Aurora Australis flight are looking to charter a Dreamliner for future trips.

Tickets for the seven-hour flight which leaves Dunedin Airport at 9pm sold out within days of being put up for sale prompting preparation for additional excursions next year.

John Harley, managing director or Orbit Travel in Dunedin which helped charter the flight and sold tickets, said: “We are certainly looking at the next one already it needs to be at this time of the year so we’re looking at pretty much the same time next year.”

A pair of window seats in economy were priced at $3950, while business class seats were sold for $8500 a pair.

After 130 passengers snapped up all available tickets for tonight’s historic trip operated by Air New Zealand, Harley said there were “still a lot of inquiries coming in and a lot of people on the waitlist.”

He added that because Air New Zealand had sold its 767 fleet and would be retiring its last plane after this final flight, future trips will be in a different aircraft.

“We’re hoping it will be a Dreamliner. The other option of course is the likes of Air New Zealand have the new A320 which would probably have the range to do what we are wanting to do.”

He wasn’t able to comment on future ticket prices but said: “The biggest thing is that you can’t sell the centre seats.”

The idea for the flight came from Otago Museum director and former Nasa Space Telescope Science Institute public outreach head Ian Griffin, and will be the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

He worked with corporate travel business Orbit with the support of Dunedin Airport chief executive, Richard Roberts.

The 130 passengers will board NZ 1980 at 8.15pm tonight. Take off is scheduled for 9pm when the 767 will travel south to latitude 62 – about two-thirds of the way to the South Pole – crossing the international date line twice to allow passengers on both side to view the aurora australis.

The plane is scheduled to land back in Dunedin at around 4.30am.

Most of the tickets were bought by Australians and New Zealanders, but a few people from the Northern Hemisphere also managed to secure seats.

Air New Zealand 767’s seating configuration comprises business class in rows 1 – 4 with economy class in rows 7 – 40.

Based on a seat map, business class tickets for the flight would have generated $68,000 with economy contributing $217,250.

An Air New Zealand Dreamliner, or Boeing 787-9 has rows 1 – 65 divided between business premier, premium economy, economy and economy sky couch.

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