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First Dunedin 'flight to the lights' yields stunning aurora images from excited passengers

New Zealand's first commercial flight to view the Southern Lights touched down in Dunedin this morning with spectacular images to show for it.

Originally intended to be a one-off, similar flights could become a regular thing.

Some passengers came  from far flung reaches of the globe to view what is regularly above New Zealanders in the night sky.

"I've wanted to see the aurora for years and never really had an opportunity. Whenever we've tried it's been rainy or overcast or something," said Rosalyn Charlton, a South African aurora hunter.

One-hundred-and-thirty passengers paid between $2000 and $4000 each for what cabin crew called "the flight to the lights".

Once the Air New Zealand Boeing 767 flight was underway, there was an airborne photography tutorial from photographer Mark Gee and many of the passengers were serious photography enthusiasts.

"Oh very excited, I've been planning it for six months," said one amateur photographer on the flight.

Others were simply celebrating, like birthday girl Chloe McKenzie.

"We took off and it's quite exciting. We were like 'oh gosh, we're on our way, but don't get to excited we haven't seen it yet'," she said.

Much effort is made to cancel out reflective light from inside the cabin, passengers putting their jackets over their heads.

The flight to the lights was just another night at the office for the crew.

Keen astro-photographers were treated to the flight of a lifetime – imagery from Dr Ian Griffin, Taichi Nakamura, Stephen Voss, and Mark Gee. Source: 1 NEWS

"From an operational perspective it's reasonably standard to plan this flight. And we are trying to maximise the passenger experience as we fly south," said first officer Matt Harrington.

But the first commercial aurora flight out of New Zealand might be the last of its kind out of Dunedin.

With 767s soon to be decommissioned, it's uncertain if any future like this will be run out of Dunedin Airport, said 1 NEWS reporter Mark Hathaway, on board the flight.

Limitations of Dunedin's runway mean subsequent flights may have to fly out of Christchurch or Invercargill.

Mark Hathaway was one of the lucky few on board a flight south that checked out the aurora. Source: Breakfast

Organisers say a second flight next year is on the cards, signalling what could be a new emerald jewel in our tourism crown.

Originally intended to be a one off, similar flights could be a regular thing. Source: 1 NEWS