As thousands of passenger airplanes remain in storage, dedicated freighters have never been busier and DHL Express is adding to its fleet with another aircraft on transtasman routes.
DHL has launched a dedicated route connecting Auckland and Christchurch to Melbourne five nights a week, in response to soaring demand.
DHL Express New Zealand country manager Mark Foy said the pick up in demand for parcel air freight had exceeded expectations as e-commerce had boomed.
Volumes between New Zealand and Australia grew 28 per cent between October
2019 and the same month this year within the firm's network.
"We were pretty nervous at the beginning of the year but this has probably been the best outcome in terms of making sure shipments are moving and for our customer," he said.
With fewer passenger aircraft in the air, belly freight capacity was severely constrained. Foy said about 80 per cent of cargo was normally carried by commercial passenger planes.
The shortage in space has turned out to be good news for DHL, which is boosting its workforce in New Zealand.
The firm is using a Boeing 737-400 freighter capable of carrying 19 tonnes on the new Melbourne service. The new service further bolsters DHL's existing transtasman express delivery capabilities, supporting the Auckland to Sydney Boeing 767-300F freighter service.
Since March, the Boeing 767-300F has been flying an additional day to meet growing demand, and is now operating seven days a week.
One service was supported by the Government's air freight subsidy scheme. It had been extended into next year but DHL hadn't applied to be part of it, Foy said.
The increase in demand meant DHL was hiring 50 more staff in New Zealand on top of about 400 warehouse workers and 100 courier drivers.
Most transtasman parcels were clothes, fabric, shoes and machinery parts.
More cargo flights
Air New Zealand has been awarded more international cargo flights under the International Air Freight Capacity (IAFC) Scheme after the Government announced phase two of the scheme, which runs from December 1 through to March 31 next year. Air New Zealand will operate about 55 international flights per week.
Air New Zealand general manager of cargo Anna Palairet said the extension of the scheme provided much-needed support and stability to New Zealand importers and exporters.
"Our flying schedule remains largely the same and it's exciting to see new services to Guangzhou and Perth, as well as enhancements to the ongoing schedule to improve the connectivity for South Island exporters," she said.
"We'll be sending more than 1000 tonnes of lamb to the UK in time for Christmas and more than 3500 tonnes of stone fruit around the globe with a majority moving into China for the Chinese New Year."
Since the airline started flying under the IAFC scheme in May, it has operated more than 1100 return flights, carrying more than 39,000 tonnes of cargo in and out of New Zealand.