COOKS TOURISM INDUSTRY SEES AIR NEW ZEALAND PULLOUT

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By John Woods

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 2) - The Cook Islands tourism industry was told last week it's almost certain that Air New Zealand will be pulling out of the Los Angeles-Tahiti-Rarotonga route.

This backs up Cook Islands News reports that the airline will be stopping the three times a week service, despite claims that this is just rumor and 'pure speculation'.

A new report by accommodation council chairman Des Eggelton says the LA-Tahiti flights will be maintained up to the next flight schedule change in March to April 2007, and from then it is hoped there will be a new non-stop service between the United States and Rarotonga.

Last Thursday Eggelton circulated a letter to accommodation providers saying that given the present environment of rumor concerning the onward operation of Air New Zealand's North American services, he wanted to provide some factual data on the situation.

"As a member of the airline consultancy group, I wish to advise that there has been ongoing dialogue with Air New Zealand to the point that some clear understanding of a way forward has been developed. The news of this has not been made public since some detail work is still required to be completed and government personnel wish these details to be postponed until a new government is in place."

For now, he said, the three services per week through Tahiti will be maintained up until the next schedule change in March-April 2007.

"From 1 April 2007 Air New Zealand will likely be pulling off the Tahiti-Los Angeles route. This has yet to be confirmed but is highly likely to be confirmed at the forthcoming Air New Zealand board meeting on 26 September. It is likely that this will result in the loss of all connections to and from Tahiti.

"The strategy for the Cooks is to move back to a non-stop 767 Raro-Los Angeles service that would be weekly in the interim and possibly twice weekly depending on the finer points of an agreement that will be finalized with a new government.

"At this time I am not able to confirm any further details only to say that the committee has been and continues to be deeply involved with Air NZ and the government in sorting through the finer points of the agreement."

Eggelton told accommodation providers that the board of Cook Islands Tourism Corporation wishes to work in an open environment "on any issues that you and I face within the industry to the point that they are happy to receive any questions on any issues we may have".

He said he intended calling a meeting over the next couple of weeks by which time more details on the Air NZ position would be known. He hoped a board member would attend that meeting to present to answer any queries and provide update on any matters.

Meantime, with board meetings set down for the last Thursday of each month, if members had any pressing matters or matters of concern, they should send them to the their representative on the board, Karla Eggelton, or get in touch with any board member or the chief executive.

October 3, 2006

Cook Islands News: http://www.cinews.co.ck/index.htm

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