This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Government not interested in any competition for troubled Lulutai airline says Fly Niu CEO

A statement from the Ministry for Infrastructure about the government’s troubled Lulutai airline means there is no hope of replacing it, an aviation industry leader said today.

Minister of Infrastructure and Civil Aviation Seventeen Toumo’ua

The letter, which was leaked to Kaniva News, signed by the Ministry’s chief executive (CEO), Lōpeti Heimuli, contains just three sentences.

“There is currently an ‘Open Markett’ for domestic air services in Tonga. The policy is restricted to Tongan-based air operators.

“As such, the Ministry will not be liable or responsible to any person(s) who may rely on the information provided therein.”

The letter is addressed ‘To Whom it My Concern’ and is dated February 24.

The CEO of Fly Niu, ‘Atu Finau, said of the letter: “It means they will not approve any other airline to compete with them”.

The Minister of Infrastructure, Sevenitini Toumoua, is also Minister for Civil Aviation.

Real Tonga Airlines CEO Tevita Palu said the letter stated there was an open sky policy in Tonga, so anyone could apply to operate an airline in Tonga, but this was restricted to an air service provider who was based  in Tonga. He asked whether this meant Lulutai and Real Tonga.

“The person who wrote and signed the letter was under direction from the responsible policy maker, in this case the Minister of Civil Aviation,” Palu said.

“The writer of this letter also made a statement which contradicted the first statement by saying that the Ministry was not responsible and liable to what already stated on this letter.

Fly Niu chief executive ‘Atu Finau (L), Real Tonga Airlines chief executive Tēvita Palu

“Basically, he said do not rely on information provided by Civil Aviation of Tonga. In other words, he said do not count on advice by the Ministry.

“I am disappointed, but not surprise to read such a letter”

Palu said there was a conflict of interest between the airline policy maker and the regulator, who also happened to be the airline operator.

“We need a Government that is transparent, accountable and responsible for their actions and directions,” he said.

As Kaniva News reported recently, Finau and Palu have said they would work together to provide an airline service to replace Lulutai.

In 2020 veteran Tongan journalist Kalafi Moala reported that Finau and Palu’s companies could have put a service into the air in a few days if there had been a joint venture with the government.

“Real Tonga has the expertise and experience, as well as the equipment, and with Government’s deep pockets, there is a high probability of a successful public/private venture,” Maola said.

“But it became clear by the day that Government did not want a joint venture. They wanted to start their own airline.”

Lulutai’s twin-engined Saab passenger aircraft undergoing lengthy repairs and Australia is funding a replacement service operated by Fiji Airlines.

This has reignited questions about the airline’s safety which surfaced when it abruptly replaced Real Tonga.

At the time of its launch Moala alleged that claims by the government that the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO)  was involved in certifying Lulutai were false. He said PASO had denied any involvement

Tongatapu 2 MP, Sēmisi Sika questioned the safety of the airline’s aircraft to provide commercial flight in Tonga.

Hon. Sika asked Cabinet about the safety of the airline’s airworthiness. He said he was surprised to learn it took only three months for Lulutai Airline to be issued with an AOC.

The government issued a press release quoting Finance Minister Tevita Lavemaau saying Lulutia was “safe and reliable to provide air services in Tonga.”

The press release said Lulutai had undergone testing flights, which were required to demonstrate that it could provide safe and reliable flights.

The then Prime Minister, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, said the new airline would be issued with an Air Operation Certificate (AOC).

For more information

Real Tonga, Fly Niu CEOs meet, agree to collaborate if government sells Lulutai airline March 22, 2023.

More lies, safety and security looming as Lulutai Airlines takes to the sky September 26, 2020.

Govt press release,Tongatapu%202%20MP%E2%80%99s%202020%20Constituency%20Visits%20Report%20yesterday. September 23, 2020.