24 Dec 2016

Real Tonga airline says no room for second airline

9:55 am on 24 December 2016

The head of Real Tonga airline says the government's approval of another passenger service for the Kingdom is too much for the local market.

Tevita Palu's comments came after Tonga Airways was refused an operating license and its passengers had to fly on Real Tonga's aircraft.

Mr Palu said they carried about 200 passengers who had bought tickets from Tonga Airways this week.

Tonga Airways is a partly Tongan, partly foreign owned venture and was aiming to provide a second air service for Tonga and said it would bring cheaper airfares than the existing operator, Real Tonga.

But Mr Palu, who is now a member of the Tourism Board of Authority chaired by Minister of Civil Aviation, Semisi Sika, told Kaniva News there is no room for a second airline.

A report by World Bank had recommended only one airline to serve Tonga's domestic flight services can financially survive.

Mr Palu said his airline operates five aircraft, which is more than what is required to serve the Tongan market.

Semisi Sika declined Tonga Airways' license application last week.

However his action angered Tonga Airways' chairman, former Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu.

Mr Vaipulu said it was disappointing that Mr Sika chose not to grant approval for Tonga Airways to start its domestic service using chartered Fiji Airways aircraft.

He told Radio New Zealand International his company would keep pressing the government to approve its services.

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Photo: AFP/Torsten Blackwood