Air Niugini needs to re-fleet

Photo: Air Niugini

With less than 20 aircraft currently in operations, the country’s national airline company seriously needs to look at re-fleeting.

The recent incident of passengers being injured during a flight involving an Air Niugini Fokker 70 aircraft is a call that the current fleet is ageing and needs to be replaced with new aircraft.

During a flight demonstration by Embraer, a global aerospace company based in Brazil, recently resigned Air Niugini chief executive officer (CEO) Bruce Alabaster, said the current Fokker Fleet being operated by the airline in PNG is more than 20 years old.

He said Air Niugini as part of its re-fleeting exercise is progressing its review of available options to ensure the airline secures a competitive and sustainable solution for its PNG domestic and regional network.

He said the airline was supposed to bring in new aircraft but due to COVID-19 they had to cancel their orders back in 2020 and 2021.

In 2019, Air Niugini in a public statement confirmed that it had abandoned its order for four Boeing 737 Max aircraft earmarked for delivery in 2020 and 2021.

The airline stated that it will focus between aircraft manufacturers Embraer and Airbus following flight demonstrations done within the country.

In 2019, former managing director, Alan Milne said the Boeing 737 Max orders were cancelled because Boeing 737 Max had come under worldwide scrutiny following a major accident in Indonesia in 2018 and an Ethiopian flight earlier in 2019 and that had forced the fleet to be grounded.

The recent demonstration flight by Embraer in Port Moresby was done to look at options to re-fleet Air Niugini Fokker fleet.

Alabaster, during the demonstration flight conference, said Air Niugini is looking to invest in replacement aircraft with latest technology, enhanced fuel efficiency and additional safety features to serve their domestic and regional short haul markets.

In a recent statement, the airline said for its wide-body fleet, it looks forward to replacing the current Boeing 767s with two new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, to be delivered in 2026 and for its narrow body fleet, Air Niugini is transitioning its Fokker fleet to a more efficient modern regional jet replacement.

Recently, the government through Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH) met with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to secure Australia’s technical support for Air Niugini’s fleet replacement programme. However, with the recent change of the airline’s CEO, plans to replace the fleet has yet to be actioned.

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