Why Has Air New Zealand Been Flying Boeing 787s To Guangzhou?

Air New Zealand has begun a twice-weekly freight service between Auckland and Guangzhou in southern China. The flights will operate using Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Time-sensitive and perishable freight, in addition to general freight, will get loaded at both Auckland and Christchurch before the plane heads up to China.

Air New Zealand is now running a twice-weekly freight service to Guangzhou. Photo: Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand’s first freight flight to Guangzhou departed on February 3

After picking up freight in Christchurch on Wednesday, February 3, the inaugural flight, NZ1082, left Auckland late that afternoon. The 9,800-kilometer flight north to Guangzhou took just over 11 hours to complete. A six and a half-year-old Boeing 787-9, ZK-NZE, operated the service.

“We’re really excited to be able to connect New Zealand businesses to Guangzhou and vice versa. We know it hasn’t been easy for exporters and importers, so it’s great to be able to offer more connectivity,” says Air New Zealand General Manager of Cargo, Anna Palairet.

“By offering a stop in Christchurch, this will help more businesses get their cargo to China and ensure our partners in Guangzhou get the freshest, high-quality products New Zealand has to offer.”

Over the busy Chinese New Year season, Air New Zealand sent three Dreamliner services up to Guangzhou. Thereafter, flights dropped back to twice weekly. It’s a potentially lucrative route. Two-way trade between China and New Zealand is worth US$23 billion a year, making China New Zealand’s largest trading partner.

Air New Zealand is using Boeing 787-9s to operate many freight flights. Photo: Getty Images

Freight subsidy scheme keeps flights operating

Before Christmas, New Zealand’s Government extended the International Airfreight Capacity (IAFC) scheme until March 2021 to keep critical freight and exports flowing. This scheme helps underwrite freight flights.

“The scheme has helped airfreight return to 90% of pre-COVID levels. This means we can keep getting time-critical freight like medicines into New Zealand and enable our exporters to get their goods to international markets,” said NZ Transport Minister, Michael Wood.

“Normally airlines rely on a mix of passenger and air freight revenue to make international flights viable. Unfortunately, the pandemic has almost completely eliminated revenue from international passenger services.

“That’s why we have agreed to provide targeted funding for international airfreight flights to make sure they can run.

“New agreements have been reached with Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines and Malaysia Airlines to deliver airfreight capacity to key international markets.”

Air New Zealand Dreamliner 787-9 Getty
The New Zealand Government is helping subsidize Air New Zealand’s freight flights. Photo: Getty Images

Air New Zealand keeps busy flying freight flights

The IAFC scheme saw  Air New Zealand lay on extra freight capacity, including using passenger aircraft like the Dreamliners for freight only services. Over the northern 2020/21 winter, Air New Zealand has flown some 2.5 million kilograms of cherries into Asia. Around one million kilograms of lamb has gone to the United Kingdom. Blueberries are popular in Australia, with 600,000 kilograms heading there on Air New Zealand planes.

However, ramping up exports to China is clearly on New Zealand’s radar. Just weeks ago, the New Zealand Government upgraded their bilateral free trade agreement with China. Connected or not, in a matter of days, Air New Zealand commenced their Guangzhou freight flights.

The Air New Zealand Guangzhou service is also a win for Christchurch Airport. That airport is often overshadowed by the bigger Auckland Airport on the North Island. But a lot of export produce comes out of the South Island. Over the northern winter, Christchurch Airport saw around 30 freight flights a week. These flights were variously operated by Emirates, Air New Zealand, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific.

Flight tracking data has the next service to Guangzhou departing on Saturday. This time, ZK-NZK will make the long trek north.