14 Oct 2003

Air Kiribati may need to abandon international flights

5:15 am on 14 October 2003

The chief executive for Kiribati Air says its international service may be discontinued shortly because of a lack of funds.

Baraniko Baaro says the government has supported it, but given high expenses incurred, no other interest has been shown in the airline.

"As far as the ATR is concerned, no matter how hard we try unless if the lease rate, and the maintenance service provided by Air New Zealand now, can be reduced, then we might be able to...but at this present moment in time, there's no future for this aircraft."

Mr Baaro says the plane costs more than 100-thousand US dollars a month to operate, and on this rate the airline may not even last until Christmas.

He says they are looking at new stopovers, such as Fiji and Tonga, in a bid to get more passengers.

This follows comments by Kiribati's new president, Anote Tong, who says the airline has to earn its keep, or shut down.

Mr Tong says the airline has so far lost more than 5.5 million US dollars since it began over a year ago.