More than 300 Samoan seasonal workers from New Zealand have been repatriated on a charter flight today.
The flight carrying workers from Hawke's Bay, Blenheim, Gisborne, Martinborough and the Bay of Plenty left Auckland this morning about 9am.
Air New Zealand received approval from the Samoan government to operate two flights for Samon recognised seasonal employees (RSE) who work in horticulture and viticulture.
The second will leave on 31 July, also carrying 300 passengers.
More than 2000 Samoan workers are in New Zealand during the country's fruit picking season.
TV1Samoa reported most of the workers have finished serving their contracts.
National Emergency Operations Committee chairman Ulu Bismarck Crawley said some had had contracts cut short because of Covid-19.
Crawley said a reason for bringing them home is that most of the seasonal work in New Zealand was only available during summer.
Air New Zealand's Samoa manager Karen Gatt said in a statement the airline was pleased to support New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc with the repatriation of Samoan seasonal workers.
"We're happy to play a part in returning workers home to Samoa via these two dedicated services between Auckland and Apia. We will also continue to offer seats to seasonal workers on our fortnightly scheduled repatriation flights which are currently approved to operate to the end of September."
New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc trade strategy and policy manager Gary Jones said the relationship between Samoa and the New Zealand pipfruit industry was personal.
"We are family, and when regional leaders in Samoa asked our industry and the Samoan government to bring seasonal workers home safely, we responded immediately.
"We're working closely with Recognised Seasonal Employers across New Zealand and Air New Zealand to ensure their workers from across New Zealand are able to get home."
These Air New Zealand services are in addition to the fortnightly repatriation flights due to Covid-19 operating between Auckland and Apia since 29 May.