Coronavirus: Government announces first details of rescue package for aviation industry

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has announced details of where the government's $600 million dollar support package for the aviation industry will be spent.

The Government will cover the costs of any passenger-based Government taxes charged to airlines, up to the value of $163 million for the next six months, as well as assign $37 million to cover the cost of Airways New Zealand related fees for the next six months.

There was no mention of any support for Air New Zealand, which is facing a drop in revenue said to be of around $5 billion, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

Airways NZ, the organisation responsible for air traffic control for the entire country, will receive $70 million in financial support as it faces declining revenue.

Twyford says the Government recognises the massive cost COVID-19 is taking on airlines and airports, and that this package is about keeping a bit of money in their pockets.

"We are moving quickly to help by stepping in to fund things like traffic control and security screening that the aviation industry normally pays for themselves and stopping any increases to fees for the next year," Twyford said. 

"These first steps are designed to ensure the essentials of the aviation system continue to run, help keep airlines in New Zealand and encourage them to increase services faster during the eventual recovery."

Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ) has welcomed the cash injection, saying it was essential for the survival of the aviation industry.

"Keeping the sector that funnels millions of international visitors into the $17 billion tourism industry ready to restart post COVID-19 is vital, he says. And supporting the cargo channel, which handles around $25 billion of exports and imports, is an immediate focus," Justin Tighe-Umbers, executive director of BARNZ, said.

Twyford also said the government is working with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to make sure there is no unnecessary red tape when international conditions improve and airlines look to return to the skies.

"This is just the start and further initiatives will be developed with the sector to keep critical air freight flowing and our airports open," Twyford said.

The Government is also looking at chartering aircraft to maintain essential freight connections to assist with exports as well as transportation of medical and phamacutical products.