Lulutai desperate for planes approaches Air Chathams for aircrafts lease

The Chathams airline, which previously ran the kingdom’s airline service, has been approached by the Tonga government for aircraft lease, Kaniva News can reveal.

Lulutai twin otter aircraft. Photo: Press

This has been confirmed to us this morning by Lulutai Airlines’ CEO Poasi Tei.

He said a statement was expected to be released to the public when the negotiation was finalised.

It is understood Air Chathams officers had been in Tonga recently to negotiate with the government as part of the deal.

The Prime Minister did not mention Air Chathams airlines on Friday when he was asked about the future of Lulutai.


The Prime Minister has been reticent to speak openly about the airline, which is run by the government. For instance, Parliament only found out about the purchase of Lulutai’s new Twin Otter after we published the news.

Air Chathams ran Tonga’s domestic airline from 2007 to 2011.

The airline’s CEO, Craig Emeny, said he believed Chatham’s was the 11th airline to operate in Tonga. He blamed his airline’s departure on the then government’s decision to establish a rival airline using donated Chinese aircraft.

Emeny told media at the time that Chathams was financially secure and sustainable.

“I would continue to operate the domestic air service in Tonga in a normal operating environment. It is the government’s decision to sponsor competition with donated aircraft from China and that will make Chathams Pacific untenable in the future,” he said.

Chatham airlines currently operates 10 aircraft, including two ATR72s and three Saab 340s, the same type operated by Lulutai airlines. It serves destinations in New Zealand’s main islands and the Chathams, as well as Norfolk Island in Australia.

Lulutai airlins has kept functioning with technical and financial help from Australia.

In February last year Australia’s High Commissioner Rachael Moore told media in Nuku’alofa that Australia would help develop a business plan with Lulutai.

However, little detail of this has emerged.

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

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