AIRCRAFT breakdowns and unavailability of pilots have thrown Air Niugini flights into chaos, causing anger among passengers and raising questions about the airline’s ability to meet the holiday season demand.
The scheduling problem has affected both domestic and international flights.
The airline’s Boeing 767 broke down in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
It became serviceable again a day later, but the breakdown had a ripple effect on other flights both into and out of Port Moresby.
PX 394, which was to depart Port Moresby for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday at 5pm, was delayed several times before finally departing at 3am yesterday. It returned to Port Moresby at 5:30pm, more than 10 hours behind schedule.
Also yesterday, PX 005/QF 352 (joint service with Qantas), scheduled to depart for Brisbane, Australia, at 5pm, was rescheduled to 7am today because there was no captain available to fly the plane.
Passengers with connecting flights from Brisbane yesterday complained that this had seriously inconvenienced them.
On the domestic sector, PX 182 from Port Moresby to Mt Hagen was delayed from 3.15pm to 4.15pm, and then cancelled.
Passengers with boarding passes were told to turn up at Jackson Airport this morning. An Air Niugini customer service employee told The National yesterday soon after the cancellation the airline was still waiting to reschedule the flight, and nothing was confirmed.
A number of flights, both local and international, have been delayed in recent weeks, and one passenger who could not travel to Mt Hagen questioned whether Air Niugini had enough aircraft and pilots to meet the demands of travellers over the Christmas holiday period.
“Maybe the Falcon jet is a distraction the airline can’t afford. Aircraft keep breaking down and flights get cancelled or rescheduled on its busy sectors.
“The airline can’t afford this. Its reputation is at stake,” the passenger said, asking not to be named.
Long queues could be seen snaking their way at the departure counters at both domestic and international departure counters.
The delays played havoc for international passengers with onward connections, as re-booking seats is difficult during the busy Christmas holiday season in Australia and other countries.
Attempts to contact Air Niugini officials for comments yesterday were unsuccessful.
Several emails sent to the airline’s management went unanswered.