NIUE PREMIER LUI SUPPORTS ROYAL TONGAN AIRLINES SERVICE

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ALOFI, Niue (October 1, 1997 - Radio Australia)---Niue's Premier, Frank Lui, says while there may be room for additional carriers to provide air service to his country, the island's main air link from New Zealand will remain Royal Tongan Airlines.

The Pacific News Service says the Tongan airline has been the subject of several New Zealand newspaper articles recently because of its seemingly high airfares.

PACNEWS says the airfare issue is a major stumbling block to the Niue's attempts to develop a more lucrative tourist industry. But Premier Lui says it is his government's priority to ensure that Royal Tongan Airlines maintains its two weekly flights from Auckland, one of which is subsidized by the Niue government.

Additional service, linking Eastern Polynesia with Western Polynesia through Niue, Lui said, also would benefit tourism development.

Because of small passenger loads to and from Niue, the country of some 2,500 permanent residents has had difficulty maintaining consistent air service. Several regional airlines have entered the market over the years, withdrawing when losses mounted.

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