An Air New Zealand 777-300 chartered by the German government to repatriate citizens departed Auckland on Friday afternoon bound for Frankfurt via Vancouver.
Four pilots and 12 cabin crew are operating the Auckland-Vancouver leg, before a full replacement crew finish the journey, which is set to land early morning on Saturday, 4 April.
Air New Zealand standards officer David Morgan said, “We are pleased to be able to help the German government to safely bring its people home and our teams have quickly mobilised a schedule with daily flights scheduled through to next Wednesday, and more to come.
“Naturally the wellbeing of our passengers and crew is Air New Zealand’s top priority and we are incredibly grateful for the measures put in place by the New Zealand government to ensure the safe departure of foreign nationals from our shores.”
On 2 April, Australian Aviation reported how Air New Zealand has reduced its domestic services by 95 per cent from pre-coronavirus levels, operating just 43 return flights per week.
Previously, the carrier would have operated more than 400 domestic flights every day.
Chief revenue officer Cam Wallace said, “In the coming weeks we will be operating a limited number of flights a day using our A320 jet aircraft, as well as our ATR and Q300 turboprop aircraft.
“Kiwis are respecting the government’s essential travel only advice, however, we still ask customers to please check they qualify to travel under the essential services list before booking a ticket or going to the airport.”
Air New Zealand earlier announced that nearly a third of its employees, or 3,500 staff, would be laid off in the coming months.
The carrier has already begun to shift attention towards operating new cargo routes during the crisis.
The first Air New Zealand cargo flight from Auckland to Shanghai also departed this week, carrying premium local export goods including honey and seafood.