Singapore Airlines flight carrying New Zealand's first batch of COVID-19 vaccines touches down in Auckland

Under the cover of a dull, rainy Auckland sky, a rare sight in our COVID-19 world appeared on Monday: an inbound jetliner from somewhere outside of our bubble.

But as the day unfolded, we would come to learn that this Singapore Airlines flight was carrying New Zealand's first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The exact details of when vaccines would touchdown in Aotearoa had been kept confidential - a request from the manufacturer - but had Kiwis known, some would have no doubt been asking for the flight to be guided and protected by air force jets, such was the value of its cargo.

The vaccine haul had begun its journey in Brussels around 36 hours earlier.

Singapore Airlines said it and DHL Global Forwarding ensured the precious cargo was given priority loading and that the vaccines were monitored throughout their journey, including during their transit in Singapore, to ensure there were no disruptions to the cold chain requirements.

The airline's NZ general manager Kenny Teo said the company is especially proud of bringing the vaccine to Aotearoa.

"Since we began operations to New Zealand almost 45 years ago, we have celebrated many milestones and achievements together; however none have been more important, or could we be prouder of, than this milestone," Teo said.

"This delivery marks a significant point in New Zealand's, and the world's, fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and hopefully the start of the recovery and re-opening process."

Between March and December, Singapore Airlines carried more than 8800 tonnes of goods into New Zealand, including almost 1000 tonnes of PPE, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and COVID-19 test kits. 

During the same period, the airline also carried more than 10,000 tonnes of cargo to its global network, including more than 3000 tonnes of New Zealand meat, fruit, vegetables and fresh seafood.

The delivery of Aotearoa's first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine took place at the same time as the arrival of Australia's first batch, which was also delivered by Singapore Airlines.