Air New Zealand currently has grounded more than half its fleet as travel restrictions bring passenger flights to a near halt.

The airline has 114 aircraft, and now 58 of them are parked up at airports around the country.

That includes six Dreamliner aircraft that are worth more than $500 million new at list prices.

Air New Zealand has parked more than half of its fleet as flying grinds to a halt. Photo / Supplied
Air New Zealand has parked more than half of its fleet as flying grinds to a halt. Photo / Supplied

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The planes are parked across Nelson, Auckland and Christchurch engineering hangars, as well as Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington airports. The airline is talking to other airports and the Air Force about space for more aircraft that are likely to need parking up.

There is more space on airport aprons due to the low number of flight movements. Around the world more than 6000 planes late last week were grounded due to the coronavirus crisis, and that number would have leaped since then.

Air New Zealand's grounded planes are:

• 7 x Q300 aircraft

• 10 x ATR aircraft

• 23 x A320 aircraft

•12 x 777 aircraft

• 6 x 787 aircraft


Jet aircraft take about 400 out staff hours to park and initially maintain, while turboprop aircraft take about 100 hours to park and initially maintain.

After that turboprops take about 20 hours of labour each per week to maintain while in storage.

The airline is cutting its domestic and international schedule to about 5 per cent of its peak, when it carried more than 17 million passengers a year.

Air New Zealand has cut back on international flights by 95 per cent. Photo / Supplied
Air New Zealand has cut back on international flights by 95 per cent. Photo / Supplied

Andrew Hewitt, the airline's head of planning, design and support for engineering and maintenance, said staff were looking at parts of manuals about safely storing planes that they never thought would be needed.

In some planes interior panels needed to be removed to allow lubrication of parts and the airline was scrambling to find locks and covers for electronic equipment and wheels. In some cases engineers were custom building this.

''Things need to be preserved - it's important because these are hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets.''

He said the planes would need starting up regularly to keep batteries charged. If lithium ion batteries on Dreamliners die that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

''There is another state we could get to where they are in suspended animation. We haven't got there yet but if this persists for many months we may be forced to,'' said Hewitt.

The aircraft were being stored in varying states of readiness should they be needed for freight or passenger charter work.

Airports had been quick to offer help with storage space.

Hewitt said it was imperative to maintain high operational standards, even when planes were on the ground.

Air NZ chief revenue officer Cam Wallace explains how the airline is switching to cargo as a money spinner. Video / Supplied

''It's not something we have ever contemplated. We're lucky as an airline that we have the people who are knowledgeable and come up with some great solutions,'' he said.

''It's essential that operational integrity is maintained.''

The airline was investigating the feasibility of stripping out seats to provide more freight space as some airlines were doing overseas.

Negotiations are also in progress over making up to a third of its 12,500 staff redundant in response to plunging demand and uncertainty about when the airline will be able to restart.

Chief executive Greg Foran expects it will become mainly a domestic carrier with limited international services when initial flying resumes.