Palau seeks direct air links with PNG

One northern Pacific state has almost secured what has been a remote aviation dream shared by many of its small island neighbours – to get to its larger South Pacific island neighbours at as short a time and distance as possible. Palau is in Air Services Agreement (ASA) negotiations with Papua New Guinea as it gears up to host a number of important meetings this year including the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Summit meeting that begins on 29 July. Olkeriil Kazuo, Assistant Press Secretary in Palau’s Presidential office told Islands Business he’s hopeful the agreement would be signed soon.

The plan is for Palau-bound delegates to fly from Port Moresby to Koror instead of doing the longer expensive hop to the north east transiting in either Japan, Guam or Hawaii. Kazuo said Palau would also host several anniversary celebrations this year, namely the 20th anniversary of its Compact of Free Association with the United States, its 20th anniversary of special relationship with Japan and its 15th anniversary of good relations with Taiwan. Kazuo who attended this year’s Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) meeting in Noumea in February was successful in securing Palau’s bid to host the next PINA convention in 2016.

To get to Noumea he had to fly for two days making stops in Guam, Sydney then Cairns before arriving in Noumea – a trip that cost him US$4000. “This has long been a much needed route upon the elimination of the Guam-Fiji route by Continental Airlines. Since then, traveling to the South Pacific takes nearly 2 days of flight connections.” Whilst Palau does not have its own airline, Continental Airlines, China Airlines, Delta, and Asiana Airlines fly there. “The proposed ASA (with PNG) has been sent back after negotiations for some very minor detail adjustments and should be signed very soon,” he said. “No airline has been designated to provide this vital air link officially.” At last year’s Association of South Pacific Airlines (ASPA) meeting, a highpowered delegation from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) was desperately seeking a better ASA with island nations in the South Pacific in the hope that it would alleviate their worsening air transport woes.

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