Singapore Airlines celebrates 45-years of flying to New Zealand

Air travel has come a long way over the last five decades. Before COVID-19, destinations increasingly became more accessible, with many just a single direct flight away.

That wasn't the case in 1976 when Singapore Airlines first began operating a service in and out of New Zealand

Singapore Airlines celebrates 45-years of flying to New Zealand
Photo credit: Singapore Airlines

In that first year, just 30,000 New Zealanders visited Singapore, while in 2015 that number grew to more than 125,000 - an increase of more than 400 percent.

Auckland was added to the airline's Australia services, with flights operating to and from Sydney using a Boeing 707 fan-jet under the flight number SQ766.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 01:  A Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 400 takes off from Auckland Airport. This is the same type of aircraft that crashed on take off from Taipei airport, bound for the USA on November 01 2000.  (Photo by David Hallett/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

The popularity of the route grew quickly and within just two years the twice-weekly service included a weekly direct flight from Singapore to Auckland operated on a DC-10. Then just two years after that, the airline unleashed its then flagship aircraft on its New Zealand-bound services, the Boeing 747.

Singapore Airlines celebrates 45-years of flying to New Zealand
Photo credit: Singapore Airlines

In the decades that followed, Singapore Airlines grew its operations in Aotearoa to the point where it was flying into Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, operating 26 weekly flights between New Zealand and Singapore until 2020 when the pandemic hit.

In that time, the airline also flew a variety of aircraft types from within its fleet to New Zealand, including Airbus 340s, several versions of the Boeing 777, and the Airbus A380. It most recently has been operating the Airbus A350, the most modern passenger aircraft in the world today.

Singapore Airlines' first Airbus A380 service to Auckland.
Singapore Airlines' first Airbus A380 service to Auckland. Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

Singapore Airlines general manager NZ Kenny Teo said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel made for a unique environment in which to recognise the airline's 45th anniversary in New Zealand. 

"We are incredibly proud of all that we have achieved in our 45 years of operations to New Zealand, but our celebrations will be muted as we continue to navigate the most significant challenges the industry has ever faced," Teo said.

Singapore Airlines A380's massive wing.
Singapore Airlines A380's massive wing. Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

"We remain incredibly grateful for the way in which New Zealanders welcomed us to their country 45 years ago and while the pandemic has impacted our operations we have, throughout the COVID-19 crisis, remained committed to keeping New Zealand connected to the world via our Singapore hub."

During the pandemic, Singapore Airlines increased the number of cargo-only services it operated to Aotearoa and helped deliver the nation's first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in February.

In the past year, the airline has delivered medical equipment to New Zealand along with more than 9000 tonnes of goods, including almost 1000 tonnes of PPE, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and COVID-19 test kits.

Singapore Airlines A350
Singapore Airlines A350 Photo credit: Singapore Airlines

The airline then used the return leg of those medical supply flights to help exporters transport more than 10,000 tonnes of cargo to its global network, including over 3000 tonnes of New Zealand's meat, fruit, vegetables and fresh seafood.