Ihave much pleasure in wishing the customers of Air Niugini a happy and successful 2018. I would also like to take the opportunity to outline the airline’s focus this year.
These are challenging times for the economy of Papua New Guinea and especially for the airline industry that has been impacted by ‘discretionary’ spending. That simply means buying an airline ticket has to be balanced by our customers, more than ever, against other spending demands and priorities.
Despite these challenges, Air Niugini continues to perform well, and we have been preparing for the year ahead with a focus on how we can serve you better.
I have written previously about our wide-ranging cost reduction and efficiency measures. As much as possible, we have implemented these measures without significantly reducing staff, and we have not reduced domestic services.
The success achieved by our subsidiary airline, Link PNG, has enabled us to continue to maintain services to remote areas as a community service, despite them being less profitable. Our competitors are under no obligation to do so.
The introduction of the robust Fokker 70 jet aircraft to take over our main domestic services and our regional services to the South Pacific and North Queensland is starting to deliver benefits – better services and greater efficiency.
The first of our Fokkers has been fitted with new business and economy class seats and cabin features, and the remainder of the fleet will be fitted out this year.
We have greatly improved our online services, principally via the Sabre Airline Solution passenger service system.
We have also expanded our international services to include the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Townsville. These routes have been well received, and since December our weekend flights to FSM have been with a Boeing 737 to ensure we continue to provide adequate capacity.
Overall, I believe we have done as much as possible to manage the airline in difficult economic times and to prepare it for another challenging year.
In 2018, we will work hard to build on new opportunities. Principal among these is PNG’s hosting of the APEC leaders’ summit in November, when our country will host many world leaders, including the presidents of the US, China, Russia, Japan and Indonesia.
This important event, and its numerous lead up meetings, will open the world’s eyes to our country and all the exciting opportunities for trade and investment and people-to-people links.
In March, we will start regular passenger and freight services to China – flying initially twice weekly into Shanghai.
PNG already has substantial trade and business links with China, but our flights will also have the potential to open up new tourism opportunities for PNG and to enhance Port Moresby as a regional hub for passengers travelling from the South Pacific and North Queensland to Southeast Asia, and Asia generally.
We are grateful to the National Government for the significant spending it made to re-develop our international airport, and to upgrade major domestic airport runways, terminals and facilities as well.
In 2018, we will begin work on the establishment of a major maintenance hangar at Jacksons Airport – a facility that will create jobs and training – and enable us to bring heavy maintenance work on our Dash 8 and Fokker fleets in-house.
And we will be preparing in earnest for the arrival of the first two new Boeing 737 Max aircraft in 2020, with two more to follow in 2021.
In conclusion, the assurance I want to give our valued customers and business partners is that the challenge of difficult times does not mean we will in any way compromise our impeccable safety record.
Enjoy your flight – and we look forward to welcoming you again soon.