“No room for second airline” says CEO as Tonga Airways customers fly on Real Tonga aircraft

The CEO of the Real Tonga airline said for the government to approve another passenger service for the kingdom was 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.

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

Palu, who is now a member of the Tourism Board of Authority chaired by Minister of Civil Aviation, Hon. Semisi Sika, said a report by World Bank had recommended only one airline to serve Tonga’s domestic flight services can financially survive.

“There is no room for a second airline”, he told Kaniva News.

The Real Tonga CEO said his airline operated five aircraft, which was more than what was required to serve the Tongan market.

He said Real Tonga provided an average of 20 flights a day to six airports. Yesterday (December 21) they operated 30 flights.

Tonga Airways

Hon. Sika declined Tonga Airways’ license application last week.

His action agitated Tonga Airways’ chairman, former Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu.

Last year Vaipulu got into an altercation with the former minister responsible for Civil Aviation, Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu over an application for a license for Royal Tonga airline.

Kaniva News reported in August last year that Police were called to remove Vaipulu from the Hon. Lavulavu’s house.

We also reported that in an earlier incident, Vaipulu had reportedly hit a table, walked out and slammed the door of the minister’s office.

Vaipulu was one of five shareholders in Royal Tonga Airline, but he later pulled out and started Tonga Airways.

After Tonga Airways’ application was turned down he approached Real Tonga this week to take their customers.

Real Tonga said Tonga Airways paid for some of the customers’ new air tickets, while some paid for their own.

Attempts to contact Tonga Airways were unsuccessful.

Vaipulu said his airline aimed at providing cheaper airfares than Real Tonga.

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

Vaipulu told Radio New Zealand this week his company would keep pressing the government to approve its services.

“Enjoy Christmas and then we will look at it opening of New Year,” Vaipulu said.

Government subsidy

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said the government could have subsidised Real Tonga’s Chinese MA60 aircraft if Samoa and Fiji accepted its services.

The aircraft is significant to the airline’s services because of its bigger size, but it met regional criticism since its arrival in Tonga because of the many accidents in which the aircraft has been involved in other countries.

Hon. Pohiva recently told us the Samoan and Fijian governments were members of the Pacific Aviation Safety Office and they could not approve the Chinese aircraft which it failed to comply with its certification process.

The Prime Minister said the government believed Real Tonga could make money if the aircraft could fly to the two neighborhood countries and that could justify government funding.

Palu said Fiji and Samoa had made it clear they would not issue the Chinese MA60 with an Air Operation Certificate because of New Zealand’s stance against the aircraft.

He said the Tongan government has indicated it would subsidise Real Tonga, but so far they had not received any money.

READ MORE:

MA60 resumes operations despite failed negotiation with government over funding

Police called in after aviation Minister claims MP Vaipulu attacked him and swore at him

The main points

  • The CEO of Real Tonga airline said for the government to approve another passenger service for the kingdom was 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.
  • Palu said they carried about 200 passengers who had bought tickets from Tonga Airways this week.
  • “There is no room for a second airline”, Palu he told Kaniva News.

For more information

Tonga Airways still intent on getting service off the ground

Police called in after aviation Minister claims MP Vaipulu attacked him and swore at him

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