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By Kevin Pamba

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Nov. 8, 1999 – The National)---Hundreds of Air Niugini passengers around the country were stranded yesterday, apparently because of the unavailability of aircraft.

At least five flights in and out of Port Moresby were affected, and one senior flight coordination staff told The National that "some of our aircraft are not operating as scheduled."

Air Niugini management was frantically trying to reschedule the affected flights while other passengers were told to return today. But there was no official explanation from the airline about the delays.

For instance, flight PX128 to Madang was scheduled to depart at 2.45 p.m. but was rescheduled as PX1110 for 7.30 p.m. last night.

The flight to Hoskins in West New Britain province yesterday morning also was rescheduled.

One international passenger traveling to Hoskins was observed rather hopelessly wheeling his heavy luggage out, the moment he was told by a check-in staff that the flight had been rescheduled to today.

This man had earlier checked out of a Port Moresby hotel.

One expatriate woman on a business trip to Madang from Brisbane had to take refuge with her contacts here before taking the 7.30 p.m. rescheduled flight.

A senior company executive who regularly travels between Madang and Port Moresby on business, said, "This (flight delay) is not the first I've experienced."

The National could not establish how many aircraft were affected.

According to a recent count, Air Niugini has two Dash 8s, eight Fokker F28s and one Airbus. However, the Air Niugini management last week announced the sale of its Dash 8 aircraft.

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

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