Air Niugini under trying circumstances

Air Niugini relies on airport infrastructure to ensure the successful execution of flights.

This year the airline has had to modify its operations to accommodate failing runways in Mt Hagen and Rabaul. The runway in Mt. Hagen is being repaired for the second time this year.

This means that Air Niugini is unable to operate a conventional jet service to the city – which represents one of the busiest sectors in PNG.

“We are forced to operate aircraft that can take 50 passengers, as opposed to 115. We must fly three aircraft instead of one. This means more flying time, more pilot hours. It is very costly and very inefficient. We will inevitably suffer a disruption and my staff are verbally abused as a result. This is not acceptable,” said acting Chief Executive Officer Garry Seddon.

“Air Niugini is operating under very trying circumstances. The fuel supply has been threatened on several occasions. The runway infrastructure at several airports is not to a standard that meets our current and future investment program, and the lack of landing lights are reducing the operating hours in the day.

“There is a growing problem with wildlife at airports. Flight cancellations recently were exacerbated by bird strikes on aircraft. All of these issues are being addressed through a collaborative approach by relevant agencies, but the progress is slow.”

Meantime, Air Niugini recently recommenced operations into Wapenamanda, Enga Province, and increased the number of jet services in to Goroka, EHP.

Air Niugini executes more than 70 domestic and international flights every day.

Presently, 47 percent of those flights are on time. And approximately 12 percent are cancelled. These indicators are very poor, and the Acting CEO is always the first to admit that.

About 65 percent of disruptions are technical in nature – the aircraft has an issue. But flights are also disrupted due to last-light conditions, falling visibility, and weather.

Despite these challenges, year to date September 2023, Air Niugini has safely transported just over 1.02 million passengers.

Air Niugini is expecting additional fleet and the return to service of aircraft on heavy maintenance programs.

Mr Seddon clarified: “In the lead up to the peak busy period, Air Niugini expects to have three widebody aircraft meeting international schedule requirements. Two larger narrow-body aircraft performing domestic and international duties and a combination of fourteen regional jets and turboprops delivering domestic missions.”

“I hope that we can rely on the runways opening to full operations (and staying open) in November and that we see landing lights and other essential facilities.”

In November, Air Niugini is celebrating its 50th Anniversary of operations. This should be a happy memorable occasion.

But the Acting CEO shares the concerns of the travelling public: that it is difficult to celebrate this momentous milestone when service levels are still below an acceptable standard.”

Loop Author