Tonga Government responses to Chatham airline

Nuku’alofa, Tonga, 18 January 2013:  The Government of Tonga has released a statement in response to the allegations made by Chathams Pacific – Tonga’s domestic airline service, that introduction of another domestic airline will terminate services.
“Government did not terminate the Chatham Pacific services,” emphasized the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Hon. Samiu Vaipulu.
“The main aim of the introduction of the second aircraft is to stipulate competition for domestic airlines; tourist operators,  promote economic development and income generation.”
“It is unfortunate that Chatham Pacific has decided to cease its services in coming months,” said the Acting Prime Minister.

No clear indication for reasons of cessation of services
According to a Press Release issued by the Chathams Pacific, spokesman from the domestic airline confirmed that the Airline was in fact made aware of the Government’s plans in 2007, prior to their setup of operations in Tonga in 2008. Their decision to cease operations is unfounded.

Airworthiness, reliability and people safety remains a priority
Meeting the travel demands of outer islands is one thing, compared to reliable uninterrupted service and the safety of passengers.
Airworthiness directive remains of highest priority in air travel services.
This means that every aircraft must be certified to have confirmed notifications that known safety deficiency with a particular model of aircraft, engines, avionics or other systems exists must be corrected.

Despite the efforts of the Airline to develop the air service since its establishment in 2008, two of its five aircraft servicing the Kingdom, the Metroliner (18-seater) and DC3-Vintage Aircraft (a 25-seater craft where the first prototype was introduced in 1935 with same model restored and re-entered into Chatham schedule service in 2010) have experience a few shortfalls over the years on temporarily service.

The second airline to operate on domestic services will introduce two types of aircrafts, MA-60 and Y12 aircraft. The MA-60 is a 50-seat turboprop-powered commercial aircraft made by China’s AVIC !. This model provides modern design and functionality, best suited for short and medium-haul commuter services. The Y12 is a 17 seat, high wing twin-engine turboprop utility aircraft built by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC).

Chathams officials has admitted in their press release, that they will not be able to maintain financially viability in the Tonga market, in other words compete with the modern-day aircrafts.

Competitive edge for the air domestic services
Chatham agreed that competition in services does give the inbound tourist operators confidence to promote Tonga and provide safe and affordable airline with lowest domestic seat costs.

The introduction of new aircraft will provide the people of Tonga with choice to explore other cheap services provided by more than one domestic airline services.

Preparations underway
The Government has not yet formally announced plans for the administration and management of the new aircrafts but confirmed to be independent of its operations.
The Government will maintain a regulatory role under the supervision of the Ministry of Infrastructure.
Due to urgency of this cessation of Chathams’s service, the Government will tentatively provide this by April 2013 at earliest. Tenders for the management of the new domestic service will be released soon.
Palu Aviation is the only registered aviation company in Tonga. Both Chathams and Palu Aviations have been approached by Government to tender for the new aircraft. Both companies are independent private operators who will lease the Government’s new aircrafts.
Since the Chathams Pacific have decided to cease its service and take all assets the Government have to make preparations to provide trainings for Aircraft, Flight Training facilities and engineering facility in coming months.

Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku’alofa, 2013.

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