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Skies fill with new birds

Air deals to boost Tonga, Samoa arrivals

POLYNESIAN neighbours Tonga and Samoa hope to boost visitor numbers to their islands with increased flights between the destinations this year. Real Tonga has announced planned services using its leased Saab340B on international services from Fua’amotu International on Tongatapu to Faleolo in Samoa.

While Real Tonga would like to use its larger MA-60 which has a greater cargo and passenger capacity, the Chinesebuilt turbo prop airliner does not meet Samoa’s aviation industry standards. Real Tonga only resumed commercial MA-60 operations on the TongatapuVava’u route in September due to a longstanding dispute over the aircraft with New Zealand civil aviation authorities.

The aircraft was withdrawn from service in February 2015 after the Tongan Government cancelled a lease agreement. This was after the kingdom experienced intense pressure from New Zealand for operating the aircraft which claimed the aircraft had not been properly type-certified in line with international norms. After months of regulatory negotiations, Tonga signed a four-year lease contract for the aircraft with Real Tonga Airlines in August 2016. 

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