Gov’t agrees in principle to sell Lulutai airlines to Flyniu

The government has reached an in principle agreement to sell the national airlines to the privately-owned Flyniu airlines.

Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa (L), ‘Atu Fīnau

The agreement is subject to an assessment of the Flyniu proposal by the new government.

If all goes to plan, the Flyniu is expected to go ahead with the purchase early next year.

The interim-Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa had indicated early this month in an e-mail seen by Kaniva News the Lulutai airlines was available to be purchased by Flyniu.

It is understood the government was looking for buyers and companies with interests in operating the flight services.

Tu’i’onetoa previously said the government took over the airlines from Real Tonga Airlines to make sure the flight services continued to serve the kingdom after the airlines ceased operation last year and most of its staff and assets were taken over by the government.

A Flyniu spokesperson Semi Halanukonuka told Kaniva News this morning they are expected to operate from Vava’u.

The deal came after a number of meetings and unsuccessful attempts by the Flyniu authorities to convince the former government they can do the job well after the company was kicked out of the kingdom in 2004. The throw out came about after the then government introduced its one-airline policy giving the right to operate the local flight services to the late king George V’s airline company.

The founder of Flyniu ‘Atu Fīnau is now the chief executive officer of the Air Vanuatu airlines.

In a story published by the Vanuatu Business Review last week it said Air Vanuatu was in good financial position and it could pay back its loans despite the global financial crisis caused by the pandemic which hugely affected the airlines industry.

The vanuatu Finance Minister Johnny Koanapo was quoted as telling parliament Air Vanuatu has been paying off its debt of over VT1 billion (NZ$152,160) to creditors, which existed before the pandemic.

“The company is still not free from debts, but I believe it is doing its best to recover its debts.”

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