Air New Zealand is being forced to fly an empty plane to Wellington to refuel before flying on to long haul destinations as supplies dwindle in the Pacific.

As rationing continues to hit airlines, Air New Zealand said it would fly a Boeing 777-200 to Wellington Airport with just pilots on board in order to fill up and return to Auckland in preparation for further long haul operations.

Air New Zealand chief operations integrity and standards officer Captain David Morgan said this was to "accommodate" declining supplies in the Pacific.

"On that basis we are switching to a different mode of operation whereby Wellington, supplemented by Australia and those Pacific destinations able to support fuel uplifts, will be used to source the extra fuel required to maintain scheduled services.


Airlines have been stopping in Pacific countries including Fiji and New Caledonia to take on fuel following the rupture of Refining New Zealand's pipeline, cutting supply of aviation gas from Marsden Pt to Auckland.

Wellington Airport is capable of handling Boeing 777s. Air New Zealand has flown the aircraft on promotional visits before and Singapore Airlines' service to Canberra and Singapore has been using a 777-200 at the airport for the past year.

Singapore Airlines is the latest airline to announce that due to the continued rationing one of its flights will have to touch down in Australia. Other airlines including Emirates and Qatar have or are planning unscheduled stops in Australia to refuel.

The airline said SQ286, from Auckland to Singapore, would be required to make one re-fuelling stop in Sydney tomorrow and Thursday.

"This re-fuelling stop will impact some customers who currently have connections in Singapore. We will work closely with those who are impacted by this required stop and will re-book them on the next available connecting flight from Singapore," said the airline's general manager for New Zealand Simon Turcotte.

Should it be necessary, Singapore Airlines would provide accommodation and meals to customers who are required to stay in Singapore overnight.