TRUMPED TONGA AIRLINE FIGHTS GOVERNMENT POLICY

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By Peter Wagner

HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, Sept. 16) – Fledgling Tongan airline flyNiu says it will challenge the revocation of its license by the Tongan government, causing the domestic carrier to shut its operations last week.

The company, formed after the collapse of the government-owned Royal Tongan Airlines in May, had won an injunction to continue service after the government revoked its license last month. But the Tonga Supreme Court on Sept. 8 canceled the injunction, causing flyNiu to shut down.

The airline yesterday posted a notice on the Matangi Tonga website, saying it plans to challenge the government’s action, and its new policy limiting domestic air service to a single airline.

"We are taking further legal action challenging the validity and legality of our license revocation and the new economic policy of the Ministry of civil Aviation," the notice said. "We are hopeful of success and look forward to recommencing operations in the near future."

flyNiu was competing with Peau Vavau, another new airline that emerged after Royal Tongan’s collapse, when the Tongan Ministry of Civil Aviation announced the one-airline policy on Aug. 3. Shortly thereafter, Peau Vavu – whose majority owner is Tongan Crown Prince Tupoutoa – was named as the sole provider of commercial air service in the country.

The crown prince is also chairman of Shoreline Group Ltd., which owns Tonga’s power and telephone utilities, as well as property and other holdings.

Three Tongan government ministers who had opposed the new policy – Minister of Police Clive Edwards, Minister of Labor Masasso Paunga, and Minister of Justice Aisea Taumoepeau, were subsequently dismissed.

September 16, 2004

 

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