Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu'i'onetoa. Photo/Kaniva Tonga

Speculation continues that Fiji Airways will be a partner with Tonga’s new airline.

The Fijian government is the majority shareholder in Fiji Airways, with Qantas as the next largest shareholder.

It also has links with the Oneworld alliance, particularly American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways and Qantas.

Prime Minister Hon. Dr Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa announced last week that the new airline would be a joint venture, but gave no further details.

All of the Pacific Islands have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the tourism industry particularly badly hit.

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Fiji is the centre of the Islands tourist trade and a link with its airline could help bring additional tourist dollars to Tonga.

The government has emphasised the role of the airline in providing services to Tonga’s outer islands.

Last year the kingdom’s existing airline, Real Tonga, began a service from Fua’amotu International Airport to Nausori, the airport serving Fiji’s capital Suva using a Saab propliner.

At the time Real Tonga announced plans for a twice weekly jet service to Fiji’s main airport, Nadi, on Viti Levu’s west coast with an onward connection to Auckland.

However, in May this year Real Tonga was reported to be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Owner and CEO of Real Tonga, Tevita Palu, said the airline was millions of dollars in debt.

Minister of Finance Tevita Lavemaau claimed it had been operating at a loss since it started flying  seven years ago.

The Lulutai Airline

The king has named the new domestic airline as Lulutai. Lulutai is traditionally a large tropical bird of prey with a cultural and royal significance. The Tongan proverb “Kai pe manu vaivai ‘i he fāngota ‘a e Lulutai” appears to be the only source of information which could say something about the background of the bird which is hardly seen nowadays in Tonga. The proverb literally meant young birds shared the fish they had from the Lulutai’s fishing. It is being poetically used in Tongan speeches and writings to mean the monarch provides what is best for the people.

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