PX cancels purchase of aircrafts

The national flag carrier, Air Niugini has turned down an arrangement to purchase four Dash8-Q400 turboprop and two Boeing 737-800 aircraft as the aircraft were not to standard.

The aircraft were expected to arrive in September this year but didn’t eventuate as a result.

This has created disruption to travel plans being experienced by loyal and patient customers – both passenger and cargo, domestic and international.

Air Niugini management in a statement said they will not make excuses for the terrible service levels being experienced but will provide some clarity to ensure that there can be no confusion over the issues being faced by the national carrier.

Acting Chief Executive Officer Gary Seddon stated: “Air Niugini operates aircraft to one of the highest standards of aviation and airworthiness in the world.

“This is a very good safety benchmark to have. This means that we will not cut corners on our interim aircraft acquisition program. [And] when we discovered that the Q400s that had been previously selected were not to standard, we cancelled the arrangements and went back to [the] market. I will not risk our operations with aircraft that cannot be relied upon to improve our position.”

Air Niugini is currently negotiating with aircraft vendors in North America and in the meantime has accelerated heavy maintenance programs on its existing fleet.

“We hope to be able to add to our turboprop fleet in the very near future, but for now we are investing in engines and heavy maintenance to return our existing fleet to service.”

Air Niugini has stated previously that due to its aging fleet, the airline often struggles to operate more than 55 percent of its aircraft (13 planes) on any given day.

This is because there has been little investment in maintenance repair and overhaul over the past decade, and this retooling takes time and capital.

“We have recruited more qualified staff and we have been stocking high turnover inventory. We are seeing some improvement in productivity. But the age of the fleet continues to hamper operations. We will not place profits and schedule ahead of safety, and an unserviceable aircraft will not be operated regardless of the cost and inconvenience of disruption,” said the Acting CEO.

Mr Seddon said: “Attracting more pilots and crew to operate additional aircraft has been challenging also. There is a worldwide shortage of pilots. They are being attracted to larger operators around the region, who are paying very high rates and one-off joining bonuses.”

Meantime, Air Niugini recently recommenced the pilot cadet training program and has received over 1,500 applications from school leavers to licenced pilots looking to develop their careers.

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