An aircraft operated by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways touched down in Auckland late last dropping a planeload of Kiwis back on New Zealand soil before loading up with critical exports to take with it back to the Middle East.
The COVID-19 pandemic has occasionally turned the skies above New Zealand into something like the United Nations of air space. There have been aircraft from all over the world overhead as part of repatriation efforts.
The special flight was the result of discussions between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Etihad Airways and Auckland Airport.
"We are delighted to see Etihad Airways in New Zealand skies for the first time. The UAE and New Zealand share a strong relationship reaffirmed in a recent phone call between HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Foreign Minister Winston Peters," said Matthew Hawkins, New Zealand ambassador to the UAE.
The UAE is New Zealand's 10th largest trade partner.
The return flight will take with it 35 tonnes of meat and fresh produce exports from Aotearoa to the UAE.