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By Katalina Uili Tohi

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (July 6, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)---Royal Tongan Airlines CEO Semisi Taumoepeau has been elected Chairman of ASPA, the Association of South Pacific Airlines.

The election took place at ASPA’s recent regional meeting in Nadi, Fiji.

Taumoepeau has taken over from Richard Gates, CEO of Polynesian Airlines, who held the position for four years.

Prior to Gates’ tenure, Andrew Drysdale, former CEO of Air Pacific, was chairman for five years.

ASPA is a regional organisation that fosters regional air transportation cooperation and development in the South Pacific region.

A Royal Tongan Airlines press release says the appointment of Taumoepeau as chairman is a major boost to RTA’s development, following its recent operational problems on both its international and domestic routes.

ASPA is made up of 16 South Pacific Airlines and 22 global service providers.

Semisi Taumoepeau said that he is honored to get the "early trust" of ASPA members.

He said his immediate task is to "produce a strategic business plan for the Association, to address the current situation and problems facing the airlines of the region."

ASPA Secretary General George Faktaufon, based in Nadi, said, "Semisi's election as chairman of ASPA came amidst major global changes to both the airline and aviation industry, which no doubt affected member airlines in the region. His long involvement in both tourism and aviation will no doubt assist the Association and its members in what looks like a challenging role ahead."

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