The board, management and staff of Air Niugini join with me in wishing you a healthy and prosperous New Year. As 2017 begins, we at Air Niugini are focused on meeting the significant challenges we face in a difficult environment for our nation and our economy. In difficult economic conditions airlines are impacted quite seriously.
Our challenge is to manage a difficult situation while fully discharging the obligations we have as the national carrier to provide air services to every province – and that includes services that are unprofitable or marginal.
I want to assure you the board and management of Air Niugini are fully focused on doing so and, wherever possible, just not maintaining services but expanding them to meet the growing demand brought about by the development of tourist attractions and economic development generally.
However, it is vital we also continue with the careful expansion plans that we have been developing for implementation in 2017, and I want to outline the key components.
Our plans centre on maximising the benefits for Air Niugini, and the travelling public, of the significant re-development of Jacksons International Airport, Port Moresby, funded by the National Government.
To do so, Air Niugini is developing our international airport as a major hub for the Pacific Islands, and northern Australia, connecting with the rapidly developing economies of Southeast Asia and Asia generally.
At the beginning of December, our first regular service connecting Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) commenced. This will benefit the people, and the businesses, of FSM, a regional neighbour and good friend. It will also greatly benefit travellers from Australia and New Zealand, as well as from Japan and our Southeast Asian neighbours who want to visit FSM.
Early this year we will commence charter services to Shanghai, China, ahead of the introduction of regular services to the world’s largest nation.
In our March schedule, we will make further advances when Air Niugini commences regular services to Townsville, Queensland. This step will enhance the growth of the Jacksons Airport hub. Travellers from Townsville, and surrounding areas, will be able to connect with our services to major destinations, including Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong and Narita, and soon Shanghai.
On the domestic front, Air Niugini as the official carrier of the 2017 PNG Games, will be uplifting thousands of athletes to and from Hoskins in the West New Britain Province. Over 9000 athletes from all over our country will be competing in at least 28 sports. The Games will run over two weeks.
In conclusion, I want to take the opportunity on behalf of the whole Air Niugini family, and I believe you our valued customers, to warmly congratulate Cardinal Sir John Ribat, Catholic Archbishop of Port Moresby, on becoming the first from the Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands to be made a Cardinal of the universal Catholic Church.
His elevation reflects the important contribution the Christian churches as a whole make to the life of our many communities right across Papua New Guinea.
Air Niugini is proud to be the carrier for many of the clergy, missionaries, teachers and health workers for all our churches – and we are privileged to welcome on board our first cardinal.
I hope you enjoy your flight – and that we will be able to welcome you back soon.