Air Niugini will begin operating a second weekly service to Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan from July 6, 2016 to support the national government’s initiative to further develop and enhance tourism in the country, and the Papua New Guinea – Japan relationship.
The airline has been offering flights between its main base at Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby and Tokyo for over ten years on a weekly schedule initially utilising widebodied Boeing 767-300 equipment, but since June 2013 deploying smaller 737 single-aisle equipment.
The return of the second weekly frequency, which was previously operated between April 2010 and August 2011, will be partly facilitated by funding support from the national government to the tune of K5 million ($1.7 million), which will go a long way to assist the airline in implementing the second Japan service, according to Air Niugini’s Chief Executive Officer, Simon Foo.
“Air Niugini’s Japan route carries the highest percentage of inbound tourists out of all the countries we fly to, and this second service will be widely welcomed by tourism operators right across the country,” he said.
The funding will enable Air Niugini to better support Papua New Guinea’s tourism initiative and is a key stepping stone towards Air Niugini’s ambition to service Japan with at least three flights a week as soon as necessary amendments to the bilateral Air Service Agreement between the country and Japan are in place.
“At least three flights can provide maximum flexibility for tour operators in Japan to create package holidays of the most attractive duration to maximise tourism numbers. Also Japan is a major customer for PNG LNG, and only one or two flights a week on any route is not an attractive frequency for business travellers.”
Air Niugini is also supporting the government’s initiative to open up Rabaul, Madang, Mt Hagen and Alotau as key tourism provinces and introduce new non-stop international flights from outside of Port Moresby. A small component of its funding supports a trial direct service from Brisbane to Alotau during the launch of the annual Kenu and Kundu Festival.
“The test flight was basically to see if we have the capacity, the market, facilities at the airport, visa on arrival and other the basic operational requirements for an international flight. The same would be carried out for other key tourism centres” explained Foo.
These new regional centres will take a long time develop and in the meantime Air Niugini is working to further enhance connectivity into Papua New Guinea by increasing frequencies to destinations across the Asia Pacific Region, using the much improved Jackson’s airport to connect tourists via Port Moresby to all parts of the country.
This year it has already increased the frequencies of flights to Hong Kong and Honiara, and added a new service to Vanuatu. There are plans to add more flights to these routes in 2016 and also greater connection options from the international routes to its domestic flight offering.
This will be achieved through the introduction of seven former KLM cityhopper Fokker 70s into its fleet over the next 18 months. The first of these was recently handed-over to the carrier by the Dutch flag carrier as part of its own fleet renewal programme. Air Niugini previously purchased a Fokker 100 and a Fokker 70 from KLM, in September 2013 and October 2014, respectively.
Official international statistics show a tripling of arrivals into the country over the last decade which has been closely linked to Papua New Guinea’s expanding economy, based largely on its resources boom, and the associated growth of employment opportunities. The main drivers of recent growth has been business demand with annual tourism arrivals reaching a peak of over 30,000 in 2008 but subsequently regularly reaching the 25,000 figure; a number expected to grow as part of the government’s new tourism initiative.