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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 5, 1999 - Post-Courier)---The Government has endorsed major initiatives undertaken by Air Niugini management to strengthen the airline's competitive position by providing improved services to the traveling public within the country and abroad.

Prime Minister Bill Skate said yesterday, after a briefing from the airline's general manager Andrew Ogil, that he was satisfied with the initiatives taken by Mr. Ogil and his management team to improve the services and operations of the national flag carrier.

The initiatives are:

Mr. Skate said moves to retain two of the Airbus aircraft would enable the airline to maintain a credible and reliable international schedule and provide for growth and expansion opportunities.

He said, in 1998, Air Niugini opted to put one of its Airbuses on the market. However, the Asian crisis and other world market factors made it impossible for the airline to sell the aircraft.

The Prime Minister said he noted Air Niugini's continued support and the vital role it plays in the promotion of trade and tourism links with other countries through its international network, adding that the Airbus would continue that progress in the development of PNG.

Mr. Skate said the process of utilizing the second Airbus was already under way with daily services operating between Port Moresby and Cairns.

He said the comfort and increased capacity of the Airbus proved to be extremely popular with both passengers and freight companies.

"This has enabled Air Niugini to maintain its position as the major carrier on the route, even in the face of new competition from overseas,'' he said.

The Prime Minister said the airline's commercial team is reviewing the international market potential and exploring further opportunities to utilize the second airbus -- the results of which will be made known in due course. Mr. Skate said two more aircraft - F28-4000 jets -- will be acquired to boost the operations of the current fleet of F28 aircraft.

"These aircraft will be newer models compared to most of the F28s in the current fleet and will provide increased capacity and improved reliability across the airline's domestic network.'' He said the acquisition of the two jets commences a progressive replacement program by Air Niugini management to replace the older F28-1000 aircraft with a standard fleet of the larger and more modern F28-4000 series as soon as practicable.

The airline will also increase its service to Buka from three flights a week to six.

The Prime Minister called on the Tourism Promotion Authority, businesses and other line agencies to back the Air Niugini initiatives.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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