21 Jan 2013

Tonga government backs China plane after airline pulls out

9:20 am on 21 January 2013

Tonga's Acting Prime Minister says the Government's move to introduce two new aircraft from China to operate the domestic service was to provide competition and offer cheaper inter-island airfares.

The New Zealand-owned Chathams Pacific airline announced it would cease flights on March 2nd, after learning a 60-seat aircraft had been gifted to the Tongan government by China.

Chathams Pacific says the government wasn't willing to offer competition on a level playing field.

Samiu Vaipulu says it is the government's intention the management of the new aircrafts will be tendered out while it maintains a regulatory role and ownership of the two aircraft.

He says it is unfortunate that Chathams Pacific has decided to cease its services.

Matangi Tonga reports Mr Vaipulu as saying he believes a local airline will be leasing two 17 seater aircrafts from Vanuatu to service the outer islands.