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Eyes on the skies

Kiribati looks to expand

WITH limited freight space and a growing fresh tuna industry, Kiribati has been forced to look at fleet expansion and a return to international flights. Aviation industry insiders point to the possibility of a purchase this year of an Airbus A320 aircraft by Air Kiribati which has not had a regional presence since being forced to return an ATR-72 in March 2004.

Currently served by Fiji Airways and Air Nauru using Boeing 737 aircraft, Kiribati remains unable to move much of its fresh tuna which is in high demand on the lucrative Japanese market. “It’s quite likely Air Kiribati will buy an Airbus A320 this year and run in competition against Fiji Airways and Air Nauru,” an airline source said at the South Pacific Tourism Exchange at Sea World Resort on the Gold Coast.

“There is also the possibility that they will fly further than Kiribati and venture into the Northern Pacific to open that market.” The news was welcomed by Drauna Waqasokolala, CEO and General Manager of the Majuro-based Air Marshall Islands. “That would be a huge boost for the Northern Pacific and bring much-needed visitors into the region,” Waqasokolala said.

“The Marshall Islands is potentially a drawcard for the United States and China where people are very keen on diving and hiking – those are areas in which our market is very strong.” Air Marshall Islands flew to Nadi in the late 1990s using a Hawker Siddeley 748 and later a Saab 2000 – both turboprop – aircraft before suspending the services due to financial difficulties. 

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