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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 16) - The DASH8 aircraft of the FlyNiu Airline took off at mid-day today on its maiden flight to Vava‘u from Tongatapu.

The CEO of FlyNiu, ‘Atu Finau, said that it is a great relief for them to finally get their license before mid-day. He said they had been expecting to be issued with a license since June 10, after another domestic air service operator, Vava‘u Airwave was issued a license on June 9.

He said that before the end of last week they thought that they would be issued with a license on Friday afternoon, so they planned to start operation on Saturday, but it did not happen.

On Monday FlyNiu was informed that they must have a life raft before a license is issued. "We flew over a life raft from New Zealand on Air New Zealand last night. We tested it last night and fitted it aboard our aircraft and have been just waiting for the Ministry of Civil Aviation to issue the license."

With two domestic airlines serving the domestic service, it is the first time ever for Tonga to have a first class domestic air service. ‘Atu said that with their flying time to Vava‘u of 40 minutes, they were hoping to be able to fly four times to Vava‘u today, "We are fully booked for this week, next week and the week after." The flying time of FlyNiu from Tongatapu to Ha‘apai is 25 minutes.

The disruption of the domestic air service came at a crucial time for Tonga, the beginning of the holiday season and the opening on June 14 of the annual conference of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga when thousands of church members are desperate to get to Vava‘u.

June 18, 2004

Matangi Tonga:

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