Air New Zealand has announced that a battery-powered plane will join its fleet in 2026, aiming to become the first airline to fly an electric aircraft.
The airline said it ordered an all-electric five-seater cargo aircraft from US aerospace manufacturer Beta Technologies. The aircraft will initially be a cargo-only service flying packages and letters on domestic routes in partnership with New Zealand Post.
The next-generation Alia aircraft is about 12 metres long and weights three tonnes. It can reach speeds of up to 270km an hour, which is slower than conventional aircrafts. It can also carry up to 560kg of cargo.
"We're aiming to be the first airline to fly a next-generation aircraft commercially," Air New Zealand chief sustainability officer Kiri Hannifin told AFP.
She also added the carrier does not yet have a date on when it might offer passenger flights on battery-powered planes.
Last May, Scandinavian Airlines announced it would carry customers on its first commercial electric flights starting in 2028.
The Alia aircraft can be fully recharged in about 40 to 60 minutes. It also lands and takes off like a conventional aircraft.
For initial flights, after being certified as safe to fly, it will be used for routes of about 150 km domestically in New Zealand.
Air New Zealand’s deal with Beta is the first in its mission to bring next-generation aircraft into its fleet. It also has options for an additional two of the Alia aircraft and rights for a further 20.
Through the airline’s Mission Next Gen Aircraft programme, it sought and received ideas and insights from 30 organisations, selecting four partners to work closely with on its goal of launching commercial flights using next generation aircraft in 2026.
“This is a small but important step in a much larger journey for the airline. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we are incredibly committed, and this purchase marks a new chapter for the airline," Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran told The New Zealand Herald.
‘‘Decarbonising aviation isn’t easy, and we have a lot of work to do. We need to accelerate the pace of change in the technology, infrastructure, operations and regulation.”