Tonga Leases Controversial Chinese Aircraft To Private Group

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MP, unnamed shareholders, take control of MA60

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, March 4, 2015) – Tonga’s domestic MA60 aircraft gifted from China has been leased by the Government of Tonga to an unnamed group, which includes MP Samiu Vaipulu, although nothing has been confirmed as to when it will start operation as an airline.

Samiu Vaipulu, former Deputy Prime Minister and current Vava’u People’s Representative to Parliament, confirmed on March 3 that a company he is part of, with other shareholders, had last month signed a contract with Government to lease the MA60 aircraft.

He said no further details could be released at this stage as they were still in the process of confirming details.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Infrastructure Hon ‘Etuate Lavulavu also confirmed Government had signed the lease contract with Samiu Vaipulu’s company.

He said although the contract had been signed there were conditions required for the airline to meet before it could start operating the aircraft.

The new lease comes nearly a month after Government took the MA60 out of service on 8 February, terminating its lease arrangement with Real Tonga, the sole domestic carrier.

Real Tonga

Real Tonga in returning the MA60 aircraft to Government announced its plans to bring in a new aircraft to provide for the domestic service.

Airline CEO Tevita Palu said today a Jetstream 19-seater aircraft was expected to arrive in Tonga before the end of this month from New Zealand.

He said the airline currently runs the domestic service with two aircrafts, a Jetstream and a 17-seater Y-12, which was enough to meet the demand of the market at present.

"The new aircraft that we are leasing for two-years will help meet the demand of the market when the traffic picks up towards the end of April to the peak season in July," he said.

"We are currently flying twice daily to Vava’u and Ha’apai but when the peak season starts and with the additional aircraft we will have up to five flights per day to Vava’u," he said.

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