Air New Zealand is ramping up cargo services as the global border restrictions cut down passenger loads to a trickle.

A pilot last night tweeted a picture of just four passengers on board a 275-seat Dreamliner from Singapore to Auckland.

Passengers were outnumbered by crew and pilot Philip Kirk said they had their own corporate jet and ''a bloody big one too.''

Chief revenue office for the airline, Cam Wallace, said the picture told the story of demand on the airline which is about to drastically shrink it international network.


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Air New Zealand general manager of cargo Rick Nelson said the airline has introduced a number of innovative measures to keep Kiwi businesses connected to the world.

It was offering cargo customers a range of aircraft charter services covering every port on the network (excluding London). It can also provide customised options from North American markets through to Australia.

"With our Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, for example, we have the ability to uplift 11 cargo pallets in each direction we fly. Each of these pallets can take up to 12 cubic metres in volume and up to 4600 kilograms in weight,'' he said.

Global cargo customers were interested in shipping to and from Shanghai, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sydney and Melbourne.

The airline had introduced the concept of a 'Multi Party Charter Agreement' which has been designed to help small and medium-sized exporters and importers to ensure they have options available to them to move their goods.

Under this model, our customers can purchase a single airfreight pallet position on a charter flight, or by working together with a freight forwarder, a coalition of exporters and importers can potentially combine and consolidate their shipments so that they are able to purchase a single unit on the aircraft.

"This is undoubtedly an extremely difficult time for our airline with a significant reduction in capacity due to reduced travel demand, but we are pleased to be able to keep New Zealand connected to the world in this way," he said

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The airline is likely to bid for a Government fund of $330 million set up to ensure critical cargo transport lines are maintained. The Government is seeking ideas from airlines about how they could contribute to passenger repatriation along the freight route they provided.

Yesterday it said it will reduce by 95 per cent from pre-Covid-19 levels.

Focus Live: The Government is handing Air New Zealand a $900 million lifeline as it copes with the coronavirus fallout.

Domestic services into Auckland will be scheduled to allow travellers to connect onto Tasman and Pacific routes.

The airline's international schedule from 30 March to 31 May will be as follows. All services are subject to change as governments continue to introduce or change travel and border restrictions.

Tasman services (per week)

Auckland-Sydney - 3 return services

Auckland-Brisbane - 2

Auckland-Melbourne - 2

Pacific services (per week)

Auckland-Rarotonga - 1

Auckland-Fiji - 1

Auckland-Niue - 1

Sydney-Norfolk - 1

Brisbane-Norfolk - 1

Samoa and Tonga are currently not permitting international flights. If these restrictions end, Air New Zealand is likely to operate one return service per week from Auckland.

Long-haul services (per week)

Auckland-Los Angeles - 3

Auckland-Hong Kong - 2

Auckland-Shanghai - alternate days from 2 May

The airline is re-timing its Hong Kong service to a night operation from Auckland and Hong Kong to maximise connection opportunities for cargo.