Airways is putting in measures to help save fuel but warns planes may be held on the ground longer.

Airways is using technology able to queue aircraft arrivals and departures at New Zealand's main airports in the most efficient way to avoid air traffic congestion across the network and reduce fuel burn.

Airways estimates the amount of fuel the sequencing measures could save would enable nine more return flights from Auckland to Wellington daily. Flights are being delayed and cancelled because a pipeline bringing aviation fuel from Marsden Pt was ruptured by a digger last week.

Airways acting general manager of system operations Tim Boyle said under normal conditions, the sequencing technology saved about 11,500 tonnes of fuel a year.

"Due to the current fuel shortage, we're enhancing this capability to reduce consumption as much as possible."


Aircraft departing major airports will be held on the ground with engines off until they can be given an optimum departure slot that allows them the most uninterrupted and efficient route to their destination.

Air traffic controllers will also give priority take-offs and landings to larger and heavier aircraft, which burn the most fuel.

Boyle likened it to ramp signals at motorway on-ramps.

"In this case we're keeping the red light on longer than usual to keep things moving more smoothly along the main routes," Boyle said.

But the conservation measures will slow the overall network performance.

"Passengers may notice that they are held on the ground for longer than usual. This is because it is better to have aircraft holding on the ground with the engines off, rather than slowing down en-route and burning more fuel in the air."

Rough weather across the country over the past few days has put additional pressure on the aviation network.

Aviation fuel can't be pumped from Refining NZ to the Auckland Airport because the pipeline the refining company operates failed. It could be late next week before normal aviation fuel supplies resume.