Since March 2020, Air New Zealand has assisted governments around the world in repatriating more than 7100 stranded passengers due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The airline operated charter flights to bring Kiwis home from Wuhan, Mumbai and Delhi as well as operating 13 charters on behalf of the German government to repatriate its citizens from New Zealand to Frankfurt, charter flights to Sydney and Hong Kong to connect passengers on to the Netherlands, repatriation of Korean nationals from New Zealand to Seoul and returned Samoan citizens to Apia from New Zealand and Sydney.
The flights to Wuhan, Mumbai and Delhi were a first for Air New Zealand, having never flown to those destinations in its 80-year history.
Air New Zealand chief operational integrity and safety officer David Morgan says the operational effort to make the repatriation charter flights happen at short notice is testament to the professionalism and expertise of all Air New Zealanders.
"The safety of our passengers, crew and aircraft is always our number one priority and these charter flights were incredibly complex to organise.
"Our teams assessed new route and airport operations including air service rights and country overflight approvals. In particular, we ensured new destinations were sufficiently equipped with facilities for aircraft and passenger handling, the availability of appropriate navigation aids, runway compatibility, border facilities and availability of fuel and engineering support.
"Our aircrew trained in simulators to practice landing in a new airport and were well equipped to operate these very special flights."
Air New Zealand inflight service manager B787 Denise McKeown operated the charter flight to Wuhan and says the airline had to turn away volunteers due to the number of aircrew who put their hand up to help.
"Even in times of crisis Air New Zealanders always band together to help others. It was a privilege to help connect families with their loved ones, and it was so special to see customers shed tears of joy on take-off, knowing they were en route to their homeland after such a stressful period."
These charter flights were additional to the limited scheduled international services that continued to operate throughout the year.