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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 1, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Air Fiji, one of the two domestic airlines in the country, will begin a new international service between Tuvalu and Fiji Easter Sunday, April 4.

Air Fiji Chief Executive Ken McDonald said their Bandeirante model aircraft would initially fly to Tuvalu three times a week, but additional services will be added as needed.

The new service is a replacement for Air Marshall Islands, which flew its last flight to Funafuti, Tuvalu’s capital, yesterday.

McDonald said Air Fiji was ready to replace the Bandeirante with a larger aircraft, the Embraer Brasilia 120 Advanced, pending further negotiations with the Tuvalu Government.

"It is Air Fiji's first scheduled regional service, although we have made numerous charter flights to Tuvalu with our Bandeirantes," said McDonald.

"The Brasilia, a fast 30-seater pressurized twin turbo-prop aircraft, is ideal for Tuvalu and other regional routes. We will be studying other regional service opportunities which, if opened, would help reduce the cost of the Tuvalu service."

Air Fiji's interim service will be Tuvalu's sole scheduled international air link. The flights will leave for Funafuti from Nausori Airport, near the Fiji capital Suva, on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

McDonald said the Bandeirante would carry up to 10 passengers on the northbound flights.

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