TONGA DELAYS DECISION ON AIRLINE MONOPOLY

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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 2) – A decision on which of two airlines operating in Tonga will win the monopoly right to operate the domestic air service has not been made, Viliami Ma'ake, the Director of Civil Aviation said on March 31.

Although March 31 was set as the date when an announcement was to be made, Viliami said that a review of the services offered by Peau Vava'u Airways and Airline Tonga was ongoing. The review is carried out by a Ministerial Committee, independent from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The Ministerial Committee, consisting of Dr Kalolaine Fusimalohi, the Director of the Central Planning Department; Tevita Havea the legal advisor for the Ministry of Civil Aviation; and a member from the Ministry of Finance; was set up solely to assess the ability of the two airlines to comply with the Government of Tonga’s One Airline Policy (OAP).

[PIR editor’s note: Tonga’s domestic airline monopoly, initially held by Peau Vava'u Airway – operated by Tongan Crown Prince Tupoutoa - was curtailed last November when the Tonga Ministry of Civil Aviation advertised for a second airline to service the country to help improve service. See story. ]

They will also assess the OAP itself, to see if it is a viable proposition or whether it should be terminated in order to issue both airlines with operating licences.

Viliami said that to date there had been no reports or recommendation from the Ministerial Committee. The committee's report when ready will go straight to the Minister for Civil Aviation who will make the final decision.

But meanwhile, by the end of March it was not clear who is Tonga's Minister for Civil Aviation. Cabinet has approved the restructuring of government ministries whereby Civil Aviation comes under a Ministry of Transport, which has yet to be established. The former Prime Minister held the portfolio of Civil Aviation, but the new Prime Minister is not going to take on any portfolio other than that of PM.

Both airlines still have licenses to operate for a few more weeks.

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April 3, 2006

Matangi Tonga Magazine: www.matangitonga.to/home/

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