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MATA'UTU, Wallis and Futuna (Oceania Flash, Sept. 8) - France's tiniest Pacific territory, Wallis and Futuna, is reported to have formed its very own airline, "Air Wallis," with plans to launch its inaugural flight in January 2005, between Wallis and New Caledonia.

Management told RFO-Wallis there were also plans to establish routes to French Polynesia later next year.

Atolomako Puluiuvea, a Wallis islander who claims to represent one of the Kings of Wallis, Lavelua Tomasi Kulimoetoke, says the new company is a joint venture between the territory of Wallis and Futuna, traditional chiefs, the King, a local bank and private investors.

Plans are, for the first three years of operation, to lease a 126-seat Boeing 737 that is currently being operated by Air Vanuatu.

Meanwhile, the promoters say they plan to request French ministry of transport the operating green light for two flights a week between Wallis and Port Vila (Vanuatu), Nadi (Fiji) and Nouméa (New Caledonia).

The only company currently operating between Wallis and New Caledonia is Air Calédonie International (AirCalin).

Puluiuvea says the introduction of a second company would help bring down the price of tickets, compared to the current monopolistic situation.

There is also a potentially lucrative market on the Wallis-New Caledonia route, since over twenty thousand Wallisians (more than the population of Wallis) permanently live in New Caledonia and still maintain strong family and tradition links with their home island.

The other two French Pacific dependencies, New Caledonia and French Polynesia, have already established their respective airlines, Air Calédonie International (AirCalin), Air Calédonie (domestic) and Air Tahiti Nui (ATN).

September 8, 2004

Oceania Flash: E-mail/Courriel: padec@iname.com

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