PNG Air is celebrating its second anniversary this year. The airline did its re-branding on November 5, 2015. Business Editor SHIRLEY MAULUDU talked to the airline’s chief commercial PAUL ABBOT on the airline’s performance during the downturn in the economy, and the company’s plans going forward.
Q: Congratulations to PNG Air on its second anniversary. Tell us briefly about the airline as a company.
ABBOT: The company’s board and management first created the vision for PNG Air in 2013.
From the beginning, it was all about creating greater connections for all Papua New Guineans. Rather than simply focusing on the lucrative resources sector, PNG Air wants to serve people across the country.
We started a strategic planning process four years ago.
We identified that there were three key aspects of the business that we wanted to change to improve our performance – ownership, the aircraft and the brand name.
Bringing PNG Air into majority ownership by the Mineral Resources Development Company Group and Nasfund, who between them represent a large part of the country’s population, was a critical step in sharpening the focus on serving the domestic market.
It was also the catalyst for a change in the management structure, with the introduction of a stronger, more capable team.
An airline can only be as good as its fleet.
It’s for this reason that PNG Air has invested heavily in the best aircraft for Papua New Guinea’s difficult conditions.
As the aircraft best suited to both PNG’s environment and the company’s vision for its future, the flexible, class-leading ATR 72-600 aircraft was chosen to be the core of PNG Air’s new fleet.
The newest aircraft in PNG, the ATR will efficiently connect Papua New Guinea, operating not just to the main cities but to smaller ports that alternative aircraft cannot fly to.
PNG Air sees this as opening up new opportunities, and a brighter future for all Papua New Guineans.
We wanted to ensure that the aircraft we chose was capable of serving the needs of the county for the medium to long term.
It had to have sufficient seating capacity, flexibility to carry passengers and freight and the ability to operate into unsealed, high and short runways.
The ATR ticked all the boxes and offers the airline a long term solution that will meet the needs of the market well into the future.
PNG Air was chosen as the brand name because of its strong link to the nation and the airline’s business strategy.
The name means we put PNG first.
We value the important role we play in the country as an airline. It reflects that we don’t take that responsibility lightly.
The airline’s new logo and livery reinforces the strong connection to PNG.
The many faces of PNG can be seen in the individual symbols which is a bold and modern interpretation of traditional PNG design, the new logo positions PNG Air as the fresh, dynamic, next generation airline it seeks to be.
The airline now serves 24 ports throughout PNG carrying in excess of 450,000 passengers a year.
Q: What is the airline’s view of the country’s airline industry?
ABBOT: There is no doubt that this country needs strong airlines due to the challenging environment and the difficulties this means in terms of bringing people and businesses together.
We firmly believe that the country deserves a choice in aviation providers as choice stimulates competition which results in better services and better value for the people.
If there had only been one supplier, would the people of PNG be able to fly in brand new aircraft as they do now?
Q: What would be some of the significant achievements of the airline in the past two years?
ABBOT: The airline has made significant progress in terms of fleet development and services for the people of PNG.
We bought six new aircraft to serve the people of PNG.
The seventh is due here next month;
- Have the youngest fleet serving PNG;
- Launched services to Vanimo, Kieta, Wapenamanda and Mendi;
- Added over 500,000 seats into the domestic market annually;
- Launched a Tok Pisin website;
- Launched SMS disrupt service for passengers;
- Launched PNG Air with an industry leading brand livery which was highlighted by making the CNN Top 12 liveries; and,
- Launched online check-in.
Q: Are there any measures the airline is taking to celebrate its second year of operation?
ABBOT: There is nothing specific planned. For us it will still be about delivering the best possible aviation service to PNG.
Q: How is PNG Air coping with the downturn in the economy?
ABBOT: We are still finding that despite the doom and gloom at the moment that we continue to show significant increases in terms of passenger numbers and freight.
Much of this can be put down to the new ATR and the way our customers have embraced the change to the new aircraft. But it’s also about the changes we have made to make travel easier, our investment infrastructure and training and the desire of all our staff to help make travelling with PNG Air an enjoyable experience.
Q: Is the shortage in foreign currency an issue that the airline is experiencing as well?
ABBOT: As with all companies who have offshore suppliers, we have some delays with access to foreign exchange at times.
Q: What is the status of the airline’s plans to extend its connection to Jayapura in Indonesia?
ABBOT: Services between Mt Hagen and Jayapura continue to progress but slower than we had originally planned.
We look forward to the last steps in regard to government approvals being completed so that we can commence services.
Q: Where does the company see itself in the next five to 10 years?
ABBOT: We aim to be a leading regional carrier whilst still maintaining a focus on developing and growing domestic aviation services.
For PNG to continue to fulfil its potential will require people being able to come together and connect.
It is this connecting people where we believe PNG Air can best help the country succeed.