2 Feb 2005

Tongan MP speaks out against proposed airfares to northern outer islands

10:40 am on 2 February 2005

An elected MP in Tonga says unreasonable ticket prices are being proposed for flights to the northern outer islands by the country's only domestic airline.

The Peoples' Representative for Niuatoputapu and Niuafo'ou, Sione Peauafi Haukinima, says links there need to be restored urgently as their only connection with the outside world has been by a ferry which visits every two months.

This follows the collapse of Royal Tongan Airlines nearly a year ago.

Mr Haukinima says links need to be restored urgently as locals are having difficulty getting to Tongatapu for medical treatment or family engagements.

He says while he welcomes the news that flights will be operating soon, the Peau Vava'u fare structure does not look fair.

"From the airfares that was given to us by Royal Tongan Airlines, Peau Vava'u increased the airfares. The airfares, I think, is very expensive. The airfares to the Niuas is higher than the airfare to Fiji and Pago Pago and Samoa."

Mr Haukinima says he doesn't understand why it's taken more than 10 months for flights to be restored.

Peau Vava'u says people need to realise the DC-3 aircraft the airline uses, takes more than 3 hours to get to the Niuas.