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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji TV, Dec. 27) – Grounded aircrafts forced cancellations to Fiji domestic and regional flights this festive weekend.

Air Fiji was forced to charter an aircraft to service its domestic routes while regional passengers remain in Suva waiting for flights home.

It’s an industry experiencing the pain of expansion into regional service.

With aircrafts already on charter in Tonga and the Solomon Islands, Air Fiji had to quickly resort to external assistance or face a loss in business.

The airline chartered a Britten Norman Islander and a Single Otter from Pacific Island Air and seaplanes to carry its domestic passengers, many of whom were flying to Savusavu on Christmas Day.

The two chartered aircrafts continued the services today as engineers work round the clock to fix grounded planes.

Air Fiji's Nausori Airport Manager, Arthur Whippy says the problems were beyond the company's control.

This is after a Bandeirante developed mechanical problems in Labasa on Christmas Eve.

"The Bandeirante developed generator problems and was stuck in Labasa on Christmas eve." said Arthur Whippy, Air Fiji's Manager at Nausori Airport.

Whippy says the aircraft remains now at the Nausori hangar as engineers wait for parts to be flown in from Brisbane.

A Brasillia aircraft also developed problems on Sunday morning resulting in the cancellation of a flight to Tuvalu.

A Chinese built Harbin Y-12 aircraft was also grounded.

"Its hard getting the people from Air Vanuatu because of the holidays but we are still trying to fly our passengers to Tuvalu." he said.

The company has cleared passengers flying domestic routes.

However, Manager Commercial Shainaz Voss says another predicament the company confronts is the extended leave granted to its staff many of whom are engineers.

Voss says it may need to address this problem at then end of the festive season.

The company's priority now is the designing of a contingency plan to sort out the hassle of a fast expanding airline.

December 28, 2005

Fiji TV: http://www.fijitv.com.fj/

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