Air New Zealand is operating a cargo flight to Shanghai for the first time, as freight operations become “a really important part of what we do in the next quarter”.

The carrier will deploy a Boeing 787-9 for the service, which departs Auckland around midnight today, carrying local food exports.

Cirium schedules data shows that in January, Air New Zealand operated daily passenger flights to Shanghai Pudong International airport using the same aircraft type.

Chief revenue officer Cam Wallace says the flag carrier is also seeing cargo flows back into New Zealand, a mix of medical supplies and pent-up demand.

He adds: “It’s vastly important for us to seize this opportunity because of our lack of generation of revenue in other parts of our business.

“Cargo has always been a strong part of that business. Now it’s really really important and material to keep the organisation going. Bring money in and keep products moving around the world for the safety and security of New Zealanders, but also the ongoing vitality of our business.”

The carrier said on 26 March that it would maintain three long-haul services from Auckland, to Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Among these, the Hong Kong service will be re-timed to a night operation in order to maximise connection opportunities for cargo.