Auckland Airport Cargo Monitor: Singapore link provides vital cargo capacity

04 June 2020

Demand for fresh food products drove a 100% increase in air freighted exports to Singapore despite a COVID-19 related drop in cargo capacity, according to the latest figures from Auckland Airport.

The surge in eggs (+506%), beef (+274%), concentrated milk (+18802%), salmon (+346%) and lamb (+165%) winging its way to Singapore in April came as border restrictions took hold and flight numbers reduced.

The outbreak of COVID-19 meant Singapore looked to improve its supply-chain resiliency and diversify food sources, said Scott Tasker, General Manager Aeronautical Commercial.

“New Zealand and Singapore have a close and long-standing relationship, which is formalised in the New Zealand-Singapore Enhanced Partnership that celebrated its first anniversary last week,” said Scott Tasker, General Manager Aeronautical Commercial.

“Both countries have worked hard to keep trade links open and critical supplies flowing through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s during the tough times that these relationships really count.”

In April there were 16 flights to and from Singapore. Singapore Airlines operated around three flights a week using a 747-400 freighter plus one flight using a B777-300ER passenger aircraft carrying freight only. Air New Zealand operated one cargo flight using a B789 passenger aircraft.

This month Singapore Airlines began a five-times weekly cargo-only passenger aircraft service between Auckland and Singapore using an Airbus A350-900, adding 175 tonnes of cargo capacity a week for New Zealand exporters.

Usually this cargo would be carried in the belly-hold of one of Singapore Airline’s 26-weekly passenger services from Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington, said Singapore Airlines General Manager New Zealand, Mr Kenny Teo.

“Introducing these new cargo-only passenger flights, along with our scheduled three-times weekly freighter services, will assist in re-introducing much needed cargo capacity to the New Zealand market,” Mr Teo said.

In addition to delivering produce to the Singaporean market, cargo is carried onwards to Amsterdam, China, India, Malaysia, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“It’s fantastic to see new air cargo capacity coming online. The economic benefits of these connections will flow all the way out across New Zealand,” said Mr Tasker.

More widely, the impact of COVID-19 on the reduction in air cargo capacity is seen fully for the first time in the trade data for April.

“The majority of air cargo flies in and out of New Zealand in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft so when the border effectively closed in late March there was also a sharp drop in cargo capacity,” Mr Tasker said.

April saw a 43% year-on-year decline in total cargo tonnage, while capacity fell 53%.

While total volumes were down, the need to quickly source supplies to combat COVID-19 and computer equipment to assist with the move to work-from-home or online learning was behind some big growth in specific categories.

“The data reflects the country during full lock-down with the fast delivery times of air cargo being used to bring in greater supplies of PPE, cleaners, disinfectants, respiratory equipment and laptops.

The flip side of that was less clothing, shoes, skin care, machinery and vehicle parts coming via air freight. Those numbers are really telling the story of what we all personally experienced over those weeks.”

During April, 11 airlines operated 158 flights using passenger aircraft with cargo-only loads – Air New Zealand, Air Canada, Air China, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Fiji Airways, Korean Air, LATAM and Singapore Airlines – and there were 94 freighter flights operated by five airlines – Qantas, Tasman Cargo Airlines, FedEx Express, Singapore Airlines Cargo and Airwork.

NZ air freight imports (% YoY month of April):


  1. Goggles (+10,587%)
  2. Disinfectants (+7571%)
  3. Toilet cleaner (+1586%)


  1. Footwear (-94%)
  2. Skin care (-88%)
  3. Clothing (-84%)