An Air New Zealand flagship Boeing 777-300 has returned to the skies for the first time in almost 600 days, as it prepares to restart international cargo operations.
After a four-week reawakening maintenance process, the aircraft, ZK-OKQ, is ready to restart cargo-only services between New Zealand, Australia and Los Angeles, carrying everything from fresh New Zealand seafood and lamb to medicine and e-commerce goods all around the globe.
Air New Zealand chief operational integrity and safety officer Captain David Morgan said the triumphant return of the airline’s first of seven B777s marks a turning point in the pandemic.
“After the past 24 months of predominately operating a domestic business, seeing our iconic B777 back in action will be an emotional moment for many Air New Zealanders. This particular 777 was the first in our fleet so it’s fitting that it once again flies the Koru in our skies,” he said.
“It’s a positive sign there is light at the end of the tunnel, and while it’s only flying cargo to begin with, we are hopeful that as the border restrictions continue to ease, we will be welcoming customers back on board soon.
“Our cargo business is right in the middle of its busiest season with New Zealand products in high demand around the globe, so this extra belly space is a much-needed boost for New Zealand exporters.”
ZK-OKQ will be operating its first cargo service on Thursday, 10 February between Auckland and Melbourne, and will be returned to passenger service “when appropriate”, the airline said.
Watch ZK-OKQ’s first take-off in nearly 600 days here: