Trade to and from New Zealand amid the coronavirus pandemic will be made easier after the Government fast-tracked with $1 million for Air New Zealand.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said it was "crucial that trade in vital goods such as medical supplies and food continues to flow freely during the Covid-19 global pandemic".
"We are focusing on maintaining good stocks of all essential medicines, equipment and critical products.
"There is huge demand right now for air freight from both our importers and exporters," he said.
The first flight, going to Shanghai this evening, "will be loaded with time-sensitive New Zealand exports and will return carrying essential goods and equipment".
"In normal times Air NZ relies on a mix of passenger and air freight revenue to maintain its operations. However Covid-19 has almost completely eliminated revenue from passenger services for airlines worldwide," Mr Twyford said.
"That’s why we agreed to provide variable top-up funding for international air freight movements to make sure the flights are financially viable."
The $1 million funding comes from the Government's $600m aviation package.
Details of the first $270 million payment were released on March 19, which saw funding for airlines to pay passenger-based government charges, Airways (air traffic services) related fees and support due to declining revenue covered for six months.
The remainder will be used to ensure air freight capacity on key routes is ongoing for the next six months and to deal with "immediate risks and opportunities as they arise in the aviation sector".