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By Baeau Tai

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 27) – Papua New Guinea flag carrier Air Niugini Ltd has launched its first but limited online booking system that represents a new business model for the airline.

The unique feature of the "online booking engine" offers domestic bookings in kina as one of the offered currencies.

The official launch of the internet booking through last Wednesday was attended by chairman of the Independent Public Business Corp Sumasy Singin, the airline’s board and management, corporate business representatives, government agencies, travel and hospitality industry members and information technology service providers of the airline.

The website facilitates the purchase of tickets and enhances the communication between Air Niugini and its customers over the internet. With electronic online ticketing the airline now has a 24-hour virtual sales office that can take place in the comfort of the customer’s home using modern, secure, credit card facilities.

Tickets can be purchased online for destinations within PNG and from PNG to Australia and Singapore.

However, the airlines’ website said international destinations like Honiara, Hongkong, Manila and Narita (Japan), were currently not available yet for online booking and customers are advised to consult the nearest Air Niugini Sales Office or travel agent for bookings to/from these destinations.

Air Niugini’s chief executive Wasantha Kumarasiri said one of the airline’s goals was to facilitate greater use of information technology and e-commerce so that "one-in-four prospective passengers" can conduct business transactions over the internet by year 2008.

"E-commerce will allow the airline to reach across the world and into homes where it was not possible to buy an Air Niugini ticket previously," Mr Kumarasiri said.

"E-commerce adoption within the airline is a progressive journey that has involved several milestones.

"These milestones have been planning; project implementation and achieving e-commerce transaction have been the revamp of the website and the introduction of e-ticketing from Air Niugini sales offices," he said.

"Due to dependencies of interline e-ticketing and ground handling on other airlines and airport operators outside the control of Air Niugini, not all milestones have been reached," Mr Kumarasiri said.

Currently, Air Niugini is unable to offer online bookings for travel to Manila, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Honiara although negotiations are underway and these destinations are expected to be online within the next 10 months.

As a member of IATA (International Air Transport Association) Air Niugini commenced using the industry compliant systems of e-ticketing in last year.

The airline has now completed phase one of the e-commerce online booking project and will progress to the challenge of moving towards the introduction of "self check-in kiosks" at selected airports in PNG.

The online sale of passenger seats adopts a simple e-marketplace concept - to facilitate the procurement process between buyers and sellers over the Internet.

Globalisation and continued advances in information technology present new challenges to Air Niugini.

In the electronic economy, the internet will increasingly shape the way business is conducted. It has raised the expectations of both consumers and enterprises and has re-defined the roles of the supply chain.

"It is most important for Air Niugini to adapt its practices and change from a value-adding mindset to a value-creating one," Mr Kumarasiri said, adding that value creation is more than just selling a product or service.

"It involves doing things differently, innovatively, and delivering customer satisfaction at internet speed."

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