The Government has revealed the latest airlines that have been signed up to its freight subsidy scheme.
Air New Zealand, Taiwan's China Airlines and Korean Airlines have joined Air Tahiti Nui in the latest round of carriers to win work in the scheme to keep freight connections to the rest of the world.
Airlines have become more reliant on freight to remain viable during the pandemic and the Government here has allocated $542 million to keep cargo operations going through to October and likely beyond.
Air New Zealand, Emirates, Cathay Pacific,, China Southern and Malaysian Airlines have already been part of the scheme before.
Air New Zealand said this morning it will operate around 30 flights per week to 13 destinations including Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, as well as maintaining air connectivity with key Pacific ports.
With the transtasman and Cook Islands bubbles now well under way, these services are currently operating outside of the MIAC scheme.
Air New Zealand general manager cargo Anna Palairet says it's encouraging to have been awarded more flights under the Government scheme.
"MIAC is helping our import and export community maintain essential trade with key international markets during an extended period of disruption and we're really proud to be part of making that happen. Operating these services also allows us to bring Kiwis home where other commercial services haven't been able to operate.
The scheme provided a mechanism to support the movement of freight to Australia and the Cook Islands if those bubbles burst to ensure a stable supply chain,'' she said.
Transport Minister Michael Wood said the previous International Airfreight Capacity (IAFC) scheme was restructured in March this year to focus on staying connected with international partners and on recovery.
It allows for support levels to reduce as passenger numbers rise.
''Airfreight capacity is at 90 per cent of pre-Covid levels thanks to the previous scheme and its successor Maintaining International Air Connectivity (MIAC) scheme, which have helped keep trade channels open and maintain supply of time-critical goods like medicine into New Zealand.''
Since May last year, Government support has enabled more than 7000 flights carrying over 136,000 tonnes of airfreight worth around $10 billion.
The scheme had also been critical for our Pacific countries – it recently supported the delivery of nearly 200,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu through the Covax Facility,'' said Wood.
Wood said nearly 75,000 people have returned to New Zealand on flights supported by the scheme, more than half of the total number of people to pass through MIQ facilities.
It was unlikely those journeys or the freight moved would have been possible without it.
The Ministry of Transport is negotiating with ''a number'' of other carriers and further announcements will be made in the coming weeks.
''We will consider extending support beyond October to a final date of March 2022 if necessary," Wood said.
Air Tahiti Nui earlier this week said it would fly from Auckland to Tahiti and beyond to the United States and Europe once a week.
Freight services will begin on June 10 and there was also the possibility that the Auckland-Papeete services could be available to passengers on "an ad-hoc basis and depending on demand".
Before Covid hit China Airlines flew to Auckland via Brisbane and Korean Airlines flew directly to Auckland from Seoul.
The Board of Air Line Representatives welcomed the announcement.
Executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers said it was great to see the Ministry of Transport awarding some new airlines and cargo routes.
"For some it means this will be the first time they can fly here again since Covid-19 hit,'' he said.
"This scheme is critical for keeping New Zealand's vital cargo links open. It enables airlines to keep flying routes while passenger numbers are at record lows."