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Dreamliner to clear backlog of cargo

Wednesday 3 March 2021 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Local, National

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Dreamliner to clear backlog of cargo
A passenger free Dreamliner flight will fly in today to clear the backlog of cargo. 21030218

Air freight issues are expected to be temporarily resolved with Air New Zealand flying a one-off flight today with five times the normal cargo capacity.

For close to six weeks businesses have seen a mere trickle of air freight arrive into the country. It started when the one-way travel bubble was established for Cook Islands residents.

Local businesses said the issue stemmed from planes downsizing from the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to the Airbus 320.

Despite the smaller A320 flying to Rarotonga twice a week, businesses said it didn’t even come close to matching the freight capacity of the single larger Dreamliner flight.

Air New Zealand changed its flight because quarantine-free services are operated by the A320 aircraft and aircrew.

However, a passenger free Dreamliner flight will fly in today to clear the backlog of cargo.

In a statement, the government recognised getting freight into Rarotonga has been a problem and said “as a result of government-to-government conversations together with input from Air New Zealand, a one-off aircraft switch will occur for the next inbound flight”.

Prime Minister Mark Brown said changing to the larger plane means five times the capacity of freight can arrive in Rarotonga.

“I’m hoping this will be welcome news to many and am grateful this backlog will be able to be cleared,” Brown said.

“Officials from both countries will continue to work on a longer-term solution.”

Air New Zealand’s cargo general manager, Anna Palairet yesterday said: “Approval for our larger Boeing 787-9 to operate a cargo-only service on Thursday, March 4 (Wednesday, March 3 Cook Islands time) is to provide greater assistance for importers and exporters getting their cargo to and from Rarotonga.”

“Our team is continuing to review cargo demand requirements closely and is working hard to provide solutions to meet the demand for airfreight.”

Local electronic store The Computer Man’s co-owner Mike Pynenburg said they are hoping to get a big list of items in today’s flight. The list includes, entry-level and business laptops, printers, phones, chargers, headphones, wireless earbuds, hard drives and other electronics.

If all items arrive it will be “three weeks of freight backlog,”, said Pynenburg.

The business will not know how much will arrive “until the plane departs”.

Businesses only found out the plane was departing, on Monday night, putting some on the back foot.

Pynenburg said he was scrambling with suppliers on Tuesday to get items on board.

Local supermarket Prime Foods didn’t manage to get any extra freight on board. Owner Dan Forsyth needed at least 10 days to warn his suppliers.

Regardless, Forsyth is happy something is being done.

“It’s hopeful, it looks like somebody is actually listening.”

Both business owners are glad the issue is being looked into more extensively and a long-term solution is being considered.

Air New Zealand flies twice a week on Tuesday and Friday but due to crew availability, the Dreamliner flight will arrive today instead.