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FIJI’S AIR PACIFIC TO CONTINUE KIRIBATI SERVICE Competition heats up with Nauru-Marshall Islands air agreement

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Feb. 28, 2008) - Fiji’s international airline, Air Pacific says it would continue its bi-weekly flights to Tarawa despite Nauru and the Marshall Islands signing an air service agreement that is part of an effort to resume flights to Fiji by Nauru’s Our Airline.

Air Pacific’s Managing Director John Campbell says he has noted the Nauru and Marshall Islands aviation agreement and their ambition to commence operations to Fiji.

"If the services commence, it will result in seat capacity between Tarawa and Nadi in excess of market demand," he pointed out. However, he says the airline would continue with its services to Tarawa on a bi-weekly basis.

Campbell also pointed out that the route would be economically challenged as it can be expected to grow slowly.

The passenger loads to and from Tarawa fill 50 percent of the seats on offer on Air Pacific’s two weekly flights. "This is an indicator that the market is adequately served with the seat capacity currently operated," said Campbell.

This follows the signing last Thursday in Taipei by the Nauru and Marshall Islands foreign ministers.

Nauru had linked four western Pacific nations with Australia and Fiji in 2005. But when Air Nauru’s single Boeing-737 was repossessed for lack of lease payments in December that year, Fiji’s national carrier Air Pacific stepped into the lucrative Nadi, Fiji-Tarawa, Kiribati routes and has been operating two flights a week since.

The report says that last year Fiji rebuffed efforts by Nauru’s new carrier, Our Airline, to resume service to Fiji. The report further quotes airline officials as saying that the business that Our Airline could generate from the Fiji route was critical to the economic survival of the struggling new carrier.

The Marshall Islands last month submitted a request to the Fiji government to revive its air service agreement utilizing Our Airline, but has not received a response, said officials.

The report also points out that a possible return of Our Airline to servicing Fiji and Kiribati is likely to cut into Air Pacific’s monopoly on the Fiji-Kiribati route.

In spite of this, Marshall Islands and Nauru officials have expressed optimism that the new service will get the okay from Fiji. The memorandum (signed on Thursday in Taipei) "will see the pooling of air service rights with the right aircraft types, in commercial code share agreements between Nauru’s and the Marshall Islands’ airlines," said Nauru’s Foreign Minister Kieren Keke.

"This high level of cooperation will result in an expansion of air services in our region again linking several of Taiwan’s allies together and with more destinations."

Our Airline flies from Brisbane to Tarawa, with stops in Honiara, Solomon Islands and Nauru enroute twice a week. Mounting losses had forced it to halt service to Majuro in mid-2007.

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