Stranded passengers offered free stay on Vava‘u; Fijian airline steps in to replace Lulutai

A prominent Tongan businesswoman has allowed passengers stranded in Vava’u by the collapse of Lulutai’s services to remain in her guest house for free.

She pleaded with Lulutai to publicly apologise for the unexpected cancellation of the airline’s service.

Lulutai Airlines

Yvette Guttenbeil said some of her guests whose flights had been cancelled had run out of money.

She said the guests had asked one of her employees  to allow them to stay before they returned to Tongatapu and paid their bills then.

Guttenbeil told the employee to let them stay on.

When her employee asked whether she thought the guests would pay, she told the employee that was a different issue.

“If they pay, thanks. If not, that’s alright. We won’t become a millionaire if we have that four-day rent payment,” she said in Tongan.

She said the airlines should compensate passengers for the financial distress some of them were facing.  Guttenbeil said she understood the airlines could not afford it. An apology  from the airlines would be enough to console them.

One online commenter said Lulutai should make a firm decision either to terminate its services and sell the airlines to a new operator or bring in Fiji Airways to do it. The commenter said Lulutai was acting as if it could do things it knew it could not.

“It is a pity for the country,” the commentator said.

Fiji Airways

Fiji Airways is stepping in to help Tonga’s national airline, Lulutai, maintain services to Vava’u from today, January 30, to Wednesday, February 1.

The service will be provided by Fiji Airways’ domestic subsidiary, Fiji Link, which also flies to Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

PM Hu’akavameiliku

Fiji Link flies ATR 72 and 42s and DeHavilland Canada Twin Otters.

Lulutai’s 34 seat Saab 340 has been withdrawn for urgent repairs and maintenance.

Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku said the Saab would be out of action for at least three or four months.

Pacific Link will provide three flights on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between Vava’u and Tongatapu.

Hon. Hu’akavameiliku said the Government was considering partnering with a private company to manage the operations of Lulutai.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

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