Legal action contemplated over Tonga Airways Christmas no fly debacle

The woman organising tickets for more than 60 passengers who were stranded in Nuku’alofa just before Christmas is considering suing Tonga Airways.

As Kaniva News reported on December 22, the group   was traveling to Vava’u for the St Peter Chanel (Kelana) College reunion.

When they landed in Tonga they expected to transfer to flights to the outer island, but some passengers were left stranded at Fua’amotu Terminal.

As we reported, the passengers had bought tickets with Tonga Airways, which had been selling tickets even though it did not have permission to fly. It had planned to operate with aircraft leased from Fiji airways.

About 200 passengers were affected. Bridget James, who had been organising tickets for the reunion, was able to re-book tickets with real Tonga airlines, but it meant they arrived in Vava’u over a period of three days, rather than in one group.

Attempts to contact Tonga Airways for comment on that story were unsuccessful.

Real Tonga airline’s CEO Tevita Paul accused Tonga Airways of committing fraud, saying that selling tickets without an airline license was dishonest.

Real Tonga flew more than 40 of the Kelana group to Vava’u on December 21 and the rest over the next two days.

Now Bridget James is contemplating taking legal action against Tonga Airways.

In a string of e-mails made available to Kaniva News, she documents how she booked tickets for the group, only to be discovered only a few days before they were due to travel that the airline was not operating.

Ms James said: “$5000 Tongan Paanga were confirmed to have been received into Tonga Airways Ltd’s bank account. Tonga Airways Ltd passed on this money to Real Tonga at my request”.

Her first inkling that the group were going to fly with Real Tonga came in an e-mail from Tonga airways CEO Michael Fa’asolo on December 15.

“Sadly due to various legal and operational restriction reasons,Tonga Airways has been placed in a position where it had to withdraw its Charter Seeking approval from Tonga Civil aviation Division,” Fa’asolo said.

“I have approached and humbly gained Mr Fakatele Faletau’s, Chief Operation Officer of Real Tonga  help our guests in providing seats.”

Three days before that, the Tonga Airways board had raised the cost of airfares  “as a result of having to cover unforeseen aircraft hiring from overseas to cater for the Christmas period.”

Earlier in the month Fa’asolo suggested to James that she try to get the group to travel on the Friday (December 23) because they were only able to fly on Mondays and Fridays.

And Fa’asolo said that the delays in transferring passengers to Vava’u on December 21 were caused by the terminal being unable to handle a Boeing 777.

He also blamed Air Terminal Services staff for not announcing to passengers that the flight to Vava’u was leaving and that it left 800kg underloaded.

James described the situation as “hugely disappointing.”

The main points

  • The woman organising tickets for more than 60 passengers who were stranded in Nuku’alofa just before Christmas is considering suing Tonga Airways and Real Tonga airlines.
  • As Kaniva News reported on December 22, the group was traveling to Vava’u for the St Peter Chanel (Kelana) College reunion.
  • Real Tonga flew more than 40 of the Kelana group to Vava’u on December 21 and the rest over the next two days.
  • Group organiser James described the situation as “hugely disappointing.”

For more information

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

Real Tonga slams government, Tonga Airways, after passengers stranded

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