Air Niugini cancels aircraft order

Photo: Air Niugini

Air Niugini has cancelled its acquisition of the Q-400 aircraft because they are not up to standard, says acting chief executive officer Gary Seddon.

He said in a statement that the airline company had been expecting to receive four Dash-8 Q400 turboprop aircraft and two Boeing 737-800 aircraft last month.

“Air Niugini operates aircraft to one of the highest standards of aviation and airworthiness in the world,” he said.

“This is a very good safety benchmark to have. This means that we will not cut corners on our interim aircraft acquisition programme.

“And when we discovered that the Q400s that had been previously selected were not to standard, we cancelled the arrangements and went back to the market.

“I will not risk our operations with aircraft that cannot be relied upon to improve our position.”

He said Air Niugini was currently negotiating with aircraft vendors in North America.

“Meanwhile, it accelerated heavy maintenance programmes on its existing fleet.

It stated previously that due to its aging fleet, the airline often struggled to operate more than 55 percent of its aircraft (13 planes) on any given day.

This is because there has been little investment in maintenance repair and overhaul over the past decade, and this retooling takes time and capital.

“We have recruited more qualified staff and we have been stocking high turnover inventory,” Seddon said.

“We are seeing some improvement in productivity.

“But the age of the fleet continues to hamper operations.

“We will not place profits and schedule ahead of safety, and an unserviceable aircraft will not be operated regardless of the cost and inconvenience of disruption.”

Seddon said attracting more pilots and crew to operate additional aircraft had been challenging also. “There is a worldwide shortage of pilots. They are being attracted to larger operators around the region, who are paying very high rates and one-off joining bonuses,” he said.