Exporters furious at Air NZ's treatment of the Pacific

Exporters are furious at Air New Zealand for offloading significant amounts of cargo from planes bound for the Pacific every week.

Their products are desperately needed in the islands and some are perishable. But, they are being taken off with no warning given.

Blair Krill from exporting company SAMEX Ltd, which sources a wide variety of products from suppliers around New Zealand for Pacific customers, said 95 per cent of its business is done in the islands and its taking a devastating hit.

“Air New Zealand quite frankly don’t give a damn, our freight rates have gone up 300 to 400 per cent," he said.

"They are not responding to emails or phone calls and, quite frankly, they seem to be inward-looking at their revenue and how much they can make out of the Pacific."

He said with no reliability from Air New Zealand, it's gotten to the stage now where he didn't have any confidence in the national carrier’s ability to move stock to the Pacific.

Sam Fulton from Faro, which provides wiring for the technology sector and has to export materials to its Samoan arm, said the company has also had a large amount offloaded on a weekly basis.

To help provide Kiwi businesses with certainty, the Government’s put in $330 million (US$215 million) into an international airfreight capacity scheme.

With a lack of passengers, the Government scheme has allowed Air New Zealand to put on once-weekly flights to Rarotonga, Nadi, Apia, Tonga and Niue.

With just five flights to the Pacific, there’s a 97 per cent drop in air cargo capacity from pre-Covid-19.

It’s why the Ministry of Transport is subsidising the use of a widebody 787 Dreamliner to service four pacific countries from 01 July.

Fulton said he didn't think that will be enough as Pacific governments were starting to repatriate their stranded people, and it appeared Air New Zealand was prioritising passengers over freight.

“I think the Ministry of Transport also needs to take some responsibility and look at whether the scheme is working as they have put a lot of money into it,” he said.

Air New Zealand said the Government-funded airfreight scheme has worked for the vast majority of exporters and the feedback’s been overwhelmingly positive.

However it said the freight situation would not revert back to the way it was pre-covid until passenger travel picked up.

Exporters said a lot more work needed to be done to try and deal with the problem.

They are hoping the Government and Air New Zealand take heed.


Photo TVNZ