TONGA-BRUNEI AIR DEAL COULD ALSO HELP SAMOA, SAYS KING

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By Gerard Williams

APIA, Samoa (July 22, 2002 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---The Kingdom of Tonga and Brunei have signed a landmark civil aviation agreement that could benefit Samoa, King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV said in Apia.

"Royal Tongan Airlines and Royal Brunei Airlines have just signed an air service agreement," the Tongan monarch said. "It is a cooperation agreement between the two countries."

According to some reports, the deal is understood to enable Royal Brunei, through its partnership with Royal Tongan, to get access to route rights held by Royal Tongan. These are said to include a possible route to the USA.

Royal Tongan in turn gets access to aircraft to boost its own international services. Royal Tongan has not operated its own jet on international routes since financial pressures forced it to return a leased Boeing 737.

King Taufa‘ahau said Royal Brunei is willing to lease Royal Tongan a Boeing 757-200 aircraft.

Tonga and Brunei have agreed that sharing the aircraft with Samoa is an option, he said.

King Taufa‘ahau said that Royal Brunei Airlines also wants to use a Boeing 767 aircraft, with plans to provide Tonga-Honolulu-Los Angeles flights.

He said: "If Samoa wants to take advantage of this aircraft, it can be arranged."

He added that it could also be used to upgrade flight connections with Europe, from Tonga and Samoa.

"This agreement will open up new possibilities for improved air services in the Pacific, especially for tourists from Europe and Japan," King Taufa‘ahau added.

The King was visiting Samoa en route to his routine medical check up at Stanford University Hospital in the United States.

He will return in two weeks, when he will stop over again in Samoa.

He said that if Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is in Apia at the time, they will hold discussions.

In the meantime, Tuilaepa was to have been briefed on the agreement by Tonga’s Prime Minister Prince ‘Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, who attended the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) summit meeting in Nadi, Fiji, last week.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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