DOWNTURN FORCES AIR NIUGINI TO AXE FLIGHTS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 22, 2000 – The National)---Air Niugini will suspend some domestic flights between provincial centers and reduce the frequencies of others beginning this Sunday in the face of a dramatic downturn in passenger traffic.

Flights between Port Moresby and Daru, Madang and Mount Hagen, Mount Hagen and Wewak, Wewak and Manus, and Madang and Vanimo will be indefinitely suspended.

Air Niugini managing director Andrew Ogil said yesterday that these sectors, however, were currently being serviced by third level airlines except for Wewak and Manus, where passengers would have the option of connecting with Air Niugini flights via Madang or Lae.

Mr. Ogil said that a dramatic downturn in domestic passenger traffic in recent months had forced the airline to revise its schedule.

"The adjustment in the schedule is in response to the current poor market condition and decline in passenger traffic. Schedule rationalization will be an ongoing exercise, with further adjustments to the airline's schedules should the current trend change," he said.

Mr. Ogil said that in recent months, Daru, Wapenamanda, Goroka, Mendi, Tari, Popondetta, Vanimo and Kundiawa had been affected with Air Niugini trying to maintain an acceptable level of services to all ports.

Mr. Ogil said these cost saving measures would allow the airline to focus on the identification of a suitable aircraft model to replace the F28 fleet.

"Representatives from a number of aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier, have already made submissions to the airline's refleeting committee," he said.

He said, however, that the airline had been unable to realistically consider F28 replacements due to high ownership and financial costs of the Dash 8 and Airbus fleet.

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

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