Air NZ announces first electric plane flights

Air New Zealand has bought its first battery powered-electric aircraft, an Alia CTOL aircraft...
Air New Zealand has bought its first battery powered-electric aircraft, an Alia CTOL aircraft from US-based company Beta Technologies. Photo: Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand has announced Wellington to Marlborough will be the first route for its first all-electric aircraft, the Beta ALIA.

It would begin cargo-only NZ Post flights on the route in 2026.

In December 2023, Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said that sustainable aviation fuels would be crucial to decarbonising the airlines networks, with next generation aircraft having the potential to decarbonise regional operations.

The Beta ALIA aircraft is a crucial step towards lower emissions, with figures published in 2023 showing 12 percent of New Zealand's carbon emissions were from aviation compared to the world average of just 2.8 percent.

Air New Zealand's chief sustainability officer Kiri Hannifin told RNZ's Morning Report that nearly all airports nationwide had expressed an interest in securing the route.

"Obviously it's an electric plane, so it needs to have charging facilities, and somewhere to maintain it and look after it, so some engineering facilities."

Air New Zealand were hoping that the flight would go a number of times a day between the two airports.

"It's a short hop, and the charging, we think, will be quite short. So, we are hoping it will go six to eight times a day."

The freight-only flight was being used as a test run.

"This is just a very small step in what will be a more significant piece of work, to see what sort of passenger planes we could bring in that would be lower carbon planes. It's unlikely that our passenger planes will be fully electric going forward, they are more likely to be hydrogen.

"What we do need to make sure is that we've got a regulatory system in New Zealand that supports us. So, it's great that the regulator is in Wellington as well."

Hannifin also said that it was important to have airports involved because it needed a 'whole eco-system' to bring a new fleet of aircraft in.

"We want New Zealanders also to feel comfortable, so part of the next couple of years is for New Zealanders to see that it (electric planes) is safe.

"We've worked with the manufacturer on the conditions across the Cook Strait. It's completely safe and able to handle the best of Wellington."