900 seats per week for Aust-PNG route

The Australia/PNG route will soon see the allocation of 900 seats per week, in each direction.

This has been made possible through a fresh codeshare agreement between Virgin Australia Airlines and PNG Air.

This International Air Services Commission determination is valid for five years from September 12, 2018.

The IASC says under the new arrangements made on 1 August 2018 between Virgin Australia and PNG Air, “the latter will put its code, as marketing carrier, on services operated by Virgin Australia between Brisbane and Port Moresby and on certain domestic services within Australia. The code share arrangement is proposed to commence on 1 October 2018”.

Acting PNG Air CEO, Paul Abbot, told this newsroom: “We have been working with Virgin Australia for some time now to explore the potential for codeshare operations on the Port Moresby to Brisbane route.

“The initial approval has been obtained and we have submitted to the ICCC (Independent Consumer and Competition Commission) at this end for approval also.

“We are hopeful of a positive response and a return to being able to sell our tickets on international services once again.”

Among other factors, the Australian Commission has noted that allowing the codeshare will provide more travel options to the public, while “the continued presence of Virgin Australia on the Brisbane Port-Moresby sector benefits competition on the sector”.

Meantime, on September 11th, the ICCC announced that it had revoked authorization determinations A2015/18 and A2016/24 for codeshare arrangements between Air Niugini and Qantas.

“The revocation is based on the decision of Air Niugini and Qantas to cease the code-share services between various Papua New Guinean and Australian routes which amounted to a material change of circumstance pursuant to Section 80 of the ICCC Act,” said ICCC Commissioner, Paulus Ain.

Ain said authorization A2015/18 was granted on 22nd April, 2016, for three years. This is for Air Niugini to continue its codeshare arrangement with Qantas for the Port Moresby-Brisbane (POM/BNE) and Port Moresby-Sydney (POM/SYD) routes.

“The Port Moresby-Brisbane sector codeshare covers both passenger and freight component while Port Moresby-Sydney only covers passenger services.”

Authorization A2016/24 was granted on 09th November, 2016, for Air Niugini to enter into and give effect to a codeshare agreement with Qantas, on a “free sale” basis. This was on flights operated by Air Niugini between Port Moresby and Cairns (POM/CNS) for a period of five years, commencing from 10th November, 2016.

Ain said on 16th February, 2018, Qantas submitted an application to Australia’s International Air Service Commission (IASC), requesting a variation on existing capacity determinations. This is to permit the utilisation of capacity for codeshare services with Air Niugini on a free sale basis.

However, in a draft ruling in early May, the IASC proposed to reject the airline’s application as it “would not be of benefit to the public”.

“The Commission’s finding is that Qantas’s proposed free-sale codeshare arrangement with Air Niugini would reduce competition by increasing barriers to entry on the city pairs served only by Air Niugini (Cairns-Port Moresby, Sydney-Port Moresby, Townsville-Port Moresby) and by risking the withdrawal of Virgin Australia from the Brisbane-Port Moresby sector, where both Qantas and Air Niugini offer parallel services,” the IASC draft determination said.

“If Virgin Australia’s position is further weakened by the continuation (and expansion to other routes) of the codeshare arrangement between Qantas and Air Niugini, the Commission sees a risk that Virgin Australia may exit the sector, leaving only Air Niugini and Qantas operating as partners under a codeshare arrangement.”

Consequently, Qantas withdrew its application from the IASC on 16th May, 2018.

“Air Niugini then advised the ICCC of the situation and indicated that the codeshare services with Qantas effectively ceased on 1st July, 2018,” said Ain.

Carmella Gware