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By Katalina Uili Tohi

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (August 3, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)---Air New Zealand has announced a number of changes to its Tonga services in the airline’s flight schedule effective at the end of October.

The major changes include new Tonga - Los Angeles service via Apia and cancellation of the current Tonga Honolulu service.

In making the announcement, Air New Zealand’s manager for the Pacific Islands, John Whittaker, said that the changes are in response to requests from various groups within the travel Industry who find the current Tonga – Honolulu service somewhat restrictive with regard to U.S. mainland travel.

"Air New Zealand is committed to support inbound tourism in Tonga and, following discussions with inbound tourist operators in Tonga, have decided a direct connection with Los Angeles is preferable to the current connection via Honolulu," he said.

Whittaker said the new Los Angeles service will better support tourist traffic from Europe and North America and will connect with Air New Zealand’s services to and from London.

In addition, he noted, there are a large number of Tongans living on the west coast of the United States who will be better served.

Air New Zealand will continue to operate its existing four services between Auckland and Tonga and will provide additional capacity for holiday travelers over the Christmas/New Year period.

The airline is currently considering other options for service between Tonga and Honolulu, but did not announce its plans.

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