Feb 26, 2017 Last Updated 12:56 AM, Feb 15, 2017

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The aircraft was withdrawn from service in February 2015 after the Tongan Government cancelled a lease agreement.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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North Pacific opens

New Guinea’s bird spreads its wings

TRAVEL to the Northern Pacific has opened further with new schedules released by Air Niugini. Beginning in December, Papua New Guinea’s national carrier will fly to Chuuk and Pohnpei which were previously accessible via a number of long haul routes through Korea, Japan, Guam or the Central Pacific.

The new route allows travelers to fly from Nadi (Fiji), Honiara (the Solomon Islands), Vila (Vanuatu) and the Australian cities of Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns to Port Moresby and then Chuuk and Pohnpei. Air Niugini also has services to Bali, Manila, Singapore and Hong Kong through its Port Moresby hub and hopes to attract visitors who fly to the Northern Pacific for its pristine waters, diving and snorkeling. The inaugural flights from Port Moresby flew last month to coincide with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat meeting in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Test flights using a Boeing 737 aircraft will continue until the commercial service begins. Air Niugini Chief Executive Officer, Simon Foo, said the airline would initially operate a twice-weekly round service on Wednesdays and Saturdays. “These flights will also enable passengers between the Pacific, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and FSM to connect through Port Moresby, saving them considerable time and opening the possibility of stop over tourism within PNG,” Foo said.

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Air deal links

China finds new door to region

A NEW tripartite codeshare service has thrown the door wide open to Asian markets. This month marked the beginning of links between Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu using the national carriers of three nations. The announcement of the agreement came on the back of PNG’s new Air Services Agreement signed with China just two months ago allowing direct flights from Beijing to Port Moresby.

And it bolstered Solomon Airlines’ position after it signed a codeshare agreement with Qantas on flights out of Sydney and Brisbane. Under the terms of the accord, Solomon Airlines will be in position to buy seats from Air Niugini on its four weekly flights from Port Moresby to Honiara and vice versa. The codeshare also extends to a weekly Port Vila service which Solomon Airlines will codeshare with Air Vanuatu as well as the PNG national carrier.

The three-way Melanesian deal is designed to open up travel in the Solomons and Vanuatu – two of the region’s emerging destinations at the recent South Pacific Tourism Exhibition on Australia’s Gold Coast.

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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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The Paris Agreement IN December 2015, a landmark agreement was reached in Paris where more than 190 countries agreed to a unified approach to address climate change. This is after more than 25 years of meetings and negotiations. The Paris Agreement (under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change-UNFCCC) makes some fairly important commitments that surpassed previous international climate change deals. Governments now agree to control global temperature rise to below 2 degrees C and to do everything possible to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C. Parties to the Agreement will need to submit their nationally determined contributions (commitments) under the UNFCCC article 3.

These commitments will be reviewed in 2018 to ensure that they are ambitious enough. Importantly these nationally determined contributions relate specifically to domestic emissions. On April 22nd, coinciding with Earth Day, a record 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement at the UN HQ. 15 of them submitted their instruments of ratification, including Fiji and some Pacific Islands. The Agreement requires 55 signatories and at least 55 per cent of global emissions to be represented by those ratifying the Agreement. It is to be noted that International Aviation and Maritime are omitted in the Paris Agreement....

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