Singapore Airlines is taking ''baby steps'' back to New Zealand next week amid faint signs of industry recovery in many parts of the world.
Singapore Airlines will operate Airbus A350-900s from the city state to Auckland twice a week and to Christchurch once a week from June 9.
The flights mark the first scheduled passenger services between the cities since New Zealand and Singapore closed their borders in March due to Covid-19.
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Both countries still have a strict 14-day quarantine for arriving passengers and passenger numbers are expected to be low initially.
The flights will be a way for small numbers of Singaporean nationals still here to get home. With some gradual relaxation of a transit passenger ban at Changi Airport being introduced from today there will be an opportunity for Kiwis in other parts of the world to fly home through Singapore in the future.
Singapore Airlines general manager New Zealand, Kenny Teo, said the reintroduction of flights to the two cities were "baby steps" towards re-establishing the airline's network to this country.
"While it is exciting to see more capacity added to the New Zealand market, our excitement is tempered with an understanding that this is a very small first step in the return of international travel," he said.
Singapore Airlines' overall capacity fell in April and May to just on 4 per cent of normal and with the resumption of some New Zealand flights and some limited international network growth that would grow to about 6 per cent from next week.
"We are committed to ensuring New Zealand remains globally connected in a Covid-safe manner during these challenging times, whether it be keeping key trade channels open or allowing for essential travel to occur."
There was unlikely to be a significant recovery in international travel until passengers had full confidence to fly, he said.
On Singapore Airlines flights, passengers are required to wear masks and crew wear masks and gloves and meal services are limited to avoid contact between those on board.
Other Singapore Airlines reinstated scheduled passenger services include flights to Adelaide, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brisbane, Cebu, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Medan, Melbourne and Osaka.
Teo said freight flights had increased to New Zealand during the past two months.
Three-times weekly freighter services were supplemented by the introduction of five-times weekly cargo-only passenger flights to Auckland to help meet increasing demand. Two of these would be available for passengers from next week.
"While borders around the world remain closed, these flights will provide important cargo capacity between the cities and our global network, while allowing those who have an urgent need to travel, or return home, to do so."
The Board of Airline Representatives says Singapore Airlines will join just Air New Zealand and China Eastern in offering regular scheduled international services to New Zealand.
''With our border closed to all but New Zealanders, it couldn't be more challenging for airlines to run long-haul connections.
Seeing new flights added to the schedule is a really positive sign that international airlines are confident,'' said Barnz executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers.
Flight schedule service OAG today said global capacity has bounced into June with 5.7 million seats added week on week, some 267,000 additional flights are scheduled to operate this week representing a near 16 per cent increase on last week through a combination of the returning carriers and some capacity growth.
Capacity however does remains 66 per cent below the levels filed but has broken through the 35 million seat mark to 36.7 million seats.
Air New Zealand has increased its transtasman operations - by one flight a week - but since the move to alert level 2 its domestic operation has sprung back to life.
From about 5 per cent of services during level 4 it is now flying 40 per cent of its domestic network although because of physical distancing requirements can only sell 50 per cent of seats on turbo prop aircraft and 65 per cent on jets.
While there are encouraging signs, OAG says international capacity around the world remains at just 13 per cent of the historic levels as continued travel bans, particularly in China, delay any recovery in that segment.
Chinese carriers are pouring more capacity into the market but almost exclusively for domestic travellers.
S&P Global Ratings says it doesn't expect air travel demand to recover to pre-pandemic levels, until 2023.
The ratings agency forecasts a much sharper drop passenger numbers this year than it did just a couple of months ago. The agency in March predicted a 20 per cent to 30 per cent decline this year, but in its latest sector report it revises this figure to 50 per cent to 55 per cent.
"It will be a much more protracted recovery than the rebounds observed after [the] 9/11 terror attack, the Sars pandemic of 2003, and the 2008/2009 global financial crisis," says the report.