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ALOFI, Niue (Niue News, Feb. 27) – Plans are reportedly being finalized for regular air service between Niue, Tonga and Fiji to be called Reef Air.

The Tongan language newspaper Taimi’o Tonga reports that a representative of the Reef Group from Niue, Peleni Talagi, was invited to a meeting at Vava'u with Brian Pentecost, the chief executive of the controversial Tongan domestic airline, 'Ea Peau 'o Vava'u, which is owned by Crown Prince Tupouto'a.

[Tongan authorities last year created a monopoly on domestic air service, limiting the licensing of only one carrier.]

The meeting was to discuss ways in which the airline can improve cargo and passenger services to neighboring countries.

Domestic airline 'Ea Peau 'o Vava'u is going to lease a bigger and newer aircraft this year and has expressed interest in providing special flights to other Pacific Islands including Niue, Samoa and Fiji.

Meanwhile, the Reef Group is planning to introduce regularly services from Niue to Fiji using a Chathams Air leased Convair freighter configured to take seven tonnes of cargo and 36 passengers.

The operation is to be named Reef Air and the Group plans to set up an office on Niue.

Fish is to be the main freight from Niue and to boost income from the service the Reef Group plans to offer visitor packages in and out of Fiji.

Two Niuean cabin crew have been hired for the flights and will be trained in New Zealand.

Niue has a chequered history in aviation. Niue Airlines running a leased 737-200 went belly up in the 1990’s after attempting to run an Auckland-Niue-Rarotonga service. A proposed national airline, Coral Air, never got off the ground but cost the nation $700,000 in set up fees.

Royal Tongan Airlines, which provided regular services from Nuku’alofa to Niue, collapsed last year, leaving a mountain of debt for the Tongan government to clear.

February 28, 2005

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