Aviation support extended

The Government has extended support to the aviation sector through to the end of October this year to help keep New Zealand connected with trade partners and maintain international passenger services, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today.

Mr Wood said the Government had moved swiftly to keep freight flowing at the beginning of the pandemic to help support our economic recovery. 

“Airfreight capacity is at 90% of pre-COVID levels thanks to the International Airfreight Capacity (IAFC) scheme, which has meant our exporters have been able to get their products to market and time critical goods like medicine have been able to come into New Zealand,” he said.

“Since May last year, Government support has enabled over 6,000 flights carrying over 120,000 tonnes of airfreight worth $8 billion.”

He said more than 60,000 people had returned to New Zealand on flights supported by the scheme – 60% of the total number of people to pass through MIQ facilities.

“It’s unlikely those journeys or the freight moved would have been possible without support from the IAFC scheme,” the Minister said.

“The scheme has also maintained a critical lifeline for our Pacific partners – there would have been no flights to Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Nuie without it.

“The aviation market will likely start to rebuild later this year, so we’ve changed and restructured the scheme to focus on the recovery.”

Going forward, the support programme will be called the ‘Maintaining International Air Connectivity’ (MIAC) scheme.

“International air travel essentially shut down as the virus spread, so the threat of isolation from global partners was very real. Extending support gives a predictable and regular schedule of air services to safeguard New Zealand’s international connectivity,” Mr Wood said.  

“Officials are closely working with airlines and carriers, and are monitoring the international aviation market. We will consider extending support until the end of March 2022 if necessary.”

In March 2020, Government set aside $600 million for an aviation relief package as part of the $12.1 billion COVID-19 support package. From this, $372 million was allocated to support airfreight connectivity for the original IAFC scheme. Based on forecast demand for the new MIAC scheme, providing support to October 2021 will require an additional $170 million, which will be drawn from the COVID-19 support package. 

New proposals from airlines and carriers for the MIAC scheme are now being sought by the Ministry of Transport. Existing support agreements with airlines and carriers under the IAFC scheme are due to expire at the end of April.