PATRICK TALU in Apia, SAMOA
THERE are now direct international flights between Papua New Guinea and Fiji, thanks to a deal signed two weeks ago.
The flights will be operated by national flag carrier Air Niugini and Fiji’s Air Pacific.
Prior to this, Air Niugini travelled to Nadi International Airport via Henderson International Airport in Honiara, under the PNG-Honiara agreement, which allowed the PNG airline to pick up some of Air Solomon’s passengers on its way to Nadi.
The Transport and Civil Aviation Department had pushed for “fleet freedom rights” for PNG’s airline which is now honoured in the Fiji-PNG memorandum of understanding (MoU).
Under this MoU, Air Niugini can have its own traffic where it would have the right to pick up passengers.
Air Niugini has advertised that one-way airfare to Nadi costs K1,293.
The MoU was signed two weeks ago by Fiji’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Co-operation and PNG Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
In a statement issued yesterday in Fiji, acting permanent secretary for foreign affairs, international co-operation and civil aviation Isikeli Mataitoga said the MoU on air services initiated in Port Moresby last December was to allow faster travel between Nadi and Port Moresby.
Here, travellers will fly straight to Port Moresby from Nadi, thus skipping a stop-over in Brisbane.
“The agreement means more flying capacities for our respective airlines – Air Pacific and Air Niugini,” Mr Mataitoga said
“What is still left for discussion is the beyond-points, but the MoU is important because of internal trade and services infrastructure for external trade … we need to shorten our departure to respective markets,” Mr Mataitoga said.
PNG’s acting director general economic and development co-operation division of Foreign Affairs and Trade Department Jimmy Ovia also said the airfares itself are cheaper than going through Australia.
He said PNG keeps a cordial relationship with Fiji.
“Air Niugini is PNG Government-owned and we have two big planes for international routes such as Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and seven F100 that comes to Nadi. PNG has air services agreements with other countries as well.”