(L-R) Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu'i'onetoa and Tourism Minister Akosita Lavulavu

Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa said asking whether the government was going to start its own airline was the wrong question.

“It should be asked whether a domestic aircraft will fly again in the kingdom or not,” Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said.

“And if it flies how long before it is bankrupt just like the airlines in the past?”

The Prime Minister’s statement came after Real Tonga CEO Tevita Palu told Kaniva News the government had confirmed it would operate its own domestic airline.

During his interview with Kaniva News, the Prime Minister did not explicitly deny Palu’s statement.

Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said Real Tonga’s 33-seat Saab 340 had been damaged in a bird strike. He said Palu had told him replacing the damaged engine would cost US$3 million. It would take three months for it to reach Tonga. Palu had asked for the government to guarantee a US$3 million loan from Tonga Development Bank.

The  Y12 and MA60, which were given to Tonga  by China in 2013,  will be returned to the government. Lord Tu’ivakano’s government leased them to Real Tonga which caused Chatham Pacific to withdrew from Tonga.

“At the time it was preached that domestic airfares would be cheaper because of the free aircraft from China,” the Prime Minister said.

“After seven years more problems emerged, worse than before Chatham Pacific left.

“There were no cheap seats and Real Tonga still owes huge debts to government. “

He said there was one aircraft that could fly to ‘Eua, but not  Ha’apai and Vava’u.

“The MA60 cannot be operated because it has been stationary for a long time and Real Tonga cannot afford to pay for its Certificate of Airworthiness to allow it to fly,” the Prime Minister said.

It was estimated it would cost millions before it could fly again. It could not fly in the next 12 months. The Y12 had 18 or 19 seats, but only 11 seats could be used. It needed some parts from Australia  before it can fly. It needed two to three weeks for parts to arrive.

“You asked me what is the government’s plan for its airline?” the Prime Minister said.

“After you look at the conditions I have stated above, do you think someone would be willing to be involved in operating an airline if he had a sensible mind?

“There have been a lot of accusations on the internet, but the fact is this is not a simple issue.

“No one wanted to invest in this operation.

“The government does not want to take away an opportunity that should have been given to someone else. The government has heaps of duties to do.

“From the government’s point of view the domestic service is required for the people, but it has still drowned in troubles since the beginning and it was not just Tevita Palu.

“The government did it before with its Royal Tongan Airline. I was the Auditor General at the time. The first time I saw its balance sheet it was really, really, bad.”

Real Tonga

As Kaniva News reported last week, Real Tonga has asked the Tongan government for financial support after being crippled by the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Prime Minister said a Cabinet committee had been set up to look at the  best option for the future.

The committee had offered two options; one for the government to keep operating Real Tonga either on its own or in partnership with the existing management; or to hand over air operations to somebody else.

Real Tonga is the last in a long line of airlines in Tonga to face financial difficulties.

People are now using ferries to travel between the islands.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Na’e me’a ‘a e ‘Eiki Palemia ‘o pehē ‘oku ‘ikai ko e fehu’i ia ke ‘eke pe ‘e kamata puna ‘a fē e kautaha vakapuna fo’ou ‘a e pule’anga ‘oku lau ‘e fokotu’u’. Ko e fehu’i totonu’, ‘e toe puna nai ha vakapuna fakalotofonua pe ikai ‘i Tonga ni?. Pea ka puna, koeha a e loloa pe a toe ka’anga fakapa’anga (bankrupt)’o hange ko e ngaahi kautaha ko ia ‘i he kuohili? Koia ‘oku fiema’u ke tau lotu ki he Otua ki he issue faingata’a koeni. Ke tokoni mai a e Otua ki he fai tu’utu’uni a e Pule’anga, koe’uhi ke tonu ke lava ke tau fononga atu a ha hala fo’ou ‘i he kaha’u, ki ha fa’ahinga fa’unga ‘e tupu ai a e ngaue koeni ko e fakapuna ha vakapuna ‘i Tonga ni, ko e me’a ia ‘a e ‘Eiki Palemia’. Na’e pehe ‘e Tevita Palu ki he Kaniva’ kuo ‘osi fakapapau’i ange ‘e he pule’anga ‘e fokotu’u ‘ene kautaha vakapuna fakalotofonua. ‘I ha faka’eke’eke hangatonu ‘a e Kaniva mo e ‘Eiki Palēmia na’e ‘ikai ke ne faka’ikai’i ‘a e lau ‘a Palu. Ka na’e mahino he’ene fakamatala’ ‘oku faingata’a’ia lahi ‘a e pule’anga’ he ‘isiu ko ‘eni. Taha ‘ene sio ki he hisiolia mole mo mohu palopalema’ia ‘o ha kautaha vakapuna fakalotofonua pea toe taha ‘ene sio ki he fu’u fiema’u ke ‘i ai ha fepuna’aki fakalotofonua.

    Ne ne me’a foki ‘o pehe ‘oku lolotonga ‘ikai ha fepuna’aki vakapuna ia ‘i Tonga ni he taimi ni. Na’e toki maumau a e Saap 340 sea 33 ʻa e Real Tongá ‘a Real Tonga ‘i Vava’u, pea oku lolotonga tu’u atu ia ‘i Vava’u. Oku pehe ‘e Tevita oku US$3 miliona a e f’oi misini ‘e taha ko ia ‘o e Saap na’e maumau, ‘oku ma’u mei US, ka e fiema’u a e taimi loloa ia ke toki a’u ai mai ki Tonga ni, a’u pe ia ‘o mahina 3. Ko e mahu’inga ia ‘o hono fakatau mai ‘a e Saap fo’ou e taha, o fakatatau ki he’emau talanoa kimu’a mo Tevita, he’ene kole mai ki he Pule’anga ke tokoni o malu’i (guarantee) a e no a e Real Tonga he TDB, ko e US$3m. Ko e kau pasese ‘oku nau ngaue ‘aki a e vaka tahi he taimi ni, ‘o fakafuofua ki ha mahina ‘e 3 hono fuoloa ki he kaha’u, he oku ikai ha vakapuna ia

    Na’a ne pehē foki ‘ko e ongo vaka ‘o e pule’anga oku ‘amanaki ke osi a e aleapau pea ke fakafoki mai ki he Pule’anga, ko e Y12 mo e MA60; ko e ongo vaka eni na’e me’aofa mai ‘e Siaina, ki Tonga ni he 2013, pea oange ‘e he Pule’anga ‘o Tu’ivakano he ‘aho koia, kia Tevita Palu mo e Real Tonga ke fakalele’aki a e Kautaha vakapuna, pea mamahi ai a e Chatam Pacific ‘o foki ia ki NZ, ko enau pehe ‘e ikai te nau lava o feauhi mo ha kautaha oku ma’u ta’etotongi ‘ene Vakapuna. Na’e taukave’i ‘i he ‘aho koeni, ‘e ma’ama’a ange a e puna fakalotofonua, koeuhi oku ma’u tenga’ikoa a e ongo vakapuna ‘e ua. “osi a e ta’u ‘e 7 lahi ange palopalema ia he taimi na’e i heni ai a e Chatam Pacific. Ikai ha sea ma’ama’a, toe mamafa ange ia, pea toe ha’u Real Tonga ke kole tokoni ki he Pule’anga, lolotonga oku lahi pe a e moua ia te’ekiai ke totongi ki he Pule’anga. Ko e Saap 340 sea 33, ko e vaka pe ia ‘a e Real Tonga, oku ne lolotonga charter mai ke tokoni ki he Y12 moe MA60, pea koia kuo maumau. ‘Oku iai mo e kii vaka si’isi’i e taha, oku fai ‘aki a e puna ki Eua mahalo ko e toko 7 pe a e pasese. Oku ikai puna ia ki Ha’apai pe ko Vava’u, mo Niua ko Eua pe. Ko e anga ia a e tu’u a e ngaahi vaka, oku ikai ha vaka ia ke puna he taimi ni.

    Sai ko e fakafoki mai ‘o e MA60, oku ikai lava ia ‘o puna he kuo fuoloa ‘ene tu’u ‘a’ana, oku te’e kiai ke toe lava ia ‘e he Real Tonga ‘o totongi a e certification ke certify ke puna. Oku fakafuofua ke fakamole a e ‘a e laumiliona ai ka e toki lava ke puna. He ikai lava ia ‘o puna within the next 12 months. Koe Y12, Oku sea 18 pe 19 koa, ka ko e sea pe e 11 ia oku lava ke hekasi ‘i ha fo’i puna. Oku toe tu’u moia, oku fiema’u ke omai mo e part ia mei Aositelelia ka e toki lava ke puna; mahalo oku fiema’u ha uike ia ‘e 2 ki he 3 ka e toki lava ke puna.

    Ko e fehu’i oku ke omai koeha a e palani ki he kautaha vakapuna a e pule’anga? ‘Osi ho’o vakai ki he tukukunga ‘i ‘olunga, te ke pehe oku fie kau atu ha taha he fakalele vakapuna, kapau oku iai hano atamai lelei? ke fakamole ha’a ne pa’anga kapau ko ha tokotaha fakafo’i tuitui? Koe ngaahi talanoa kuo tau fanongo he ngaluope ku lahi a e fetukuaki, ka kohono mo’oni, oku ikai ko ha issue faingofua eni, oku ikai fie fakamole ha taha ia ha’ane pa’anga he ngaue ni. Oku ikai ke pehe ‘e he Pule’anga oku ne feinga ke to’o ha faingamalie na’e mei ma’u ‘ehe taha fakafo’ituitui. Mole ke mama’o, oku lolotonga lahi pe a e ngaahi kavenga kehe ia ke fua ‘e he pule’anga, ta’e kau mai mo e puna fakalotofonua.

    Oku mau sio mei he Pule’anga, oku fiema’u a e fepuna’aki vakapuna ke fai ki he fonua, ka oku fu’u palopalema ‘aupito, talu hono fai ‘i hotau fonua ni mei he kamata’anga, he oku ikai ko Tevita Palu pe eni kuo ne fai mai mei he kuohili. Na’e osi fai ‘e he Pule’anga na’e ui ko e Royal Tongan Airlines. Pea koau a e Atita Seniale he ‘aho koia. Ko eku fuofua sio e he Balance Sheet oku minus a e Assets. Ko hono ‘ai e taha ne kovi aupito,

  2. The MA60 may have been given free but the Chinese charge 4 times the normal price for parts and training making operating the aircraft profitably on airline operations impossible. PASO ( Pacific Aviation Safety Organisation) placed a safety advisory notice on the MA60 in 2014 making it unusable on international routes. That aircraft was a white elephant from the outset. The Y12 was another. Designed for 17 chinese passengers with tiny undersized seats again unusable for Tonga. Real Tonga was set up to use these aircraft for the government they could never make money. Most lay people IE the government of Tonga dont understand the airline business. As we have seen from the current covid situation airlines run on future ticket sales when that disappears they go bankrupt virtually overnight. SEE Virgin Australia. I commend Tevita Palu for trying to keep going under difficult circumstances. The government of Tonga should stop criticising and bailout Real Tonga the only viable option.

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