International flights are still going in and out of Auckland Airport, but it’s cargo space in the belly of planes rather than passengers that’s providing a vital economic connection. In the next four weeks, around 80 new flights of freight-only passenger planes are scheduled to land at Auckland Airport, in addition to the 20 dedicated freighters each week.
Flying with limited crew, the belly hold is filled with priority cargo, including medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and parcels coming into New Zealand and respiratory equipment and fresh produce heading back out overseas.
Air has been the transport of choice for high value, time-critical goods. From gifts, airmail and online shopping orders, through to precious metals and gems, artworks and horses. Before the widespread outbreak of COVID-19, 86% of New Zealand’s airfreight came through Auckland Airport.
This isn’t just about businesses in Auckland benefiting, said Scott Tasker, General Manager Aeronautical Commercial: “The impact of well-functioning cargo connections flows right out into heartland New Zealand. Keeping our air cargo connections going to key international markets is really important and crucial for New Zealand’s economic fortunes – now and as the country works to rebuild from the impact of COVID-19.”
With the drastic fall in passenger numbers, airlines scrambled to reduce flights in order to preserve cashflow, he said. “Those reductions have resulted in a massive cut in cargo capacity, from 25,000 tonnes in April 2019 to 15,500 tonnes in April 2020. If you take an average widebody plane, there’d generally have been around 320 passengers and 15 tonnes of cargo on board.”