22 Aug 2019

Fijians in Tuvalu want Fiji Airways fares reduced

5:05 pm on 22 August 2019

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is expected to meet with Fiji Airways officials over airfares between Fiji and Tuvalu.

Funafuti, Tuvalu.

Funafuti, Tuvalu. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sally Round

Fijians living in Tuvalu raised their concerns over the airfares with Mr Bainimarama during a talanoa session in Funafuti last week.

The PM was in Tuvalu for the Pacific Forum Leaders meeting.

The director of the University of the South Pacific's Tuvalu Campus, Rosiana Lagi, said the airfares were too expensive and people wanted them reduced.

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Photo: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

The community also voiced its disappointment over the meals being served by Fiji Airways, she said.

"The fare is very high. It would cost $FJ2040 return. And we'd be served with a muffin and an apple in the plane. So that was a concern," Dr Lagi said.

"We'd like to return home for holiday or for a family function but with the high cost of the fares it's just impossible to put together the money in so short a time."

Dr Lagi said Mr Bainimarama assured the community he would look into the matter.

There are about 100 Fijians living in Tuvalu, most of them retired volunteers, teachers and nurses, she said.

Dr Lagi, a Fijian who has been in Tuvalu for more than two years, said the high airfares had been in place before she arrived on the atoll.

Her family remained in Fiji and she travelled to see them whenever she could, she said.

"A $FJ2040 return airfare is very expensive," she said.

"If I have to go to Sydney, I would be spending less than $FJ2,000, or come to Auckland maybe less than $FJ1000."

Dr Lagi said there were two to three flights a week between Suva and Funafuti but in "September there are usually two flights a week".

Fiji Airways was the only airline that serviced the two countries, she said.

"And most of the time the flights are fully booked and I guess that's why the airfares are going up because people have no option.

"We have Air Kiribati but that one only services the Tarawa-Funafuti route," she said.

Fiji Airways and Mr Bainimarama's Office did not respond to questions sent to them.