Tongan government in breach of airlines contract
Tonga government in breach of contract with Real Tonga airlines after reports it has decided to revoke Real Tonga's domestic licences without notice and bring in a New Zealand operator to take over the domestic air service.
Recently leaked documents from the International Civil Aviation Organisation have led to reports that the Tongan government plans on revoking the domestic licences of Real Tonga airlines and bringing in a New Zealand operator to take over the domestic air service during its transition.
In the same week the former Minister of Transport and infrastructure Samiu Vaipulu, and the former CEO of Tonga's Civil Aviation Department, Vili Cocker, have both been moved to a new ministry.
Tevita Palu told Indira Moala he was disappointed to find out the governments plans through the media with no formal notice.
TEVITA PALU: Yeah, from what I've seen in the newspaper or through media, it's obvious that this decision has been made by the government of Tonga. I do believe that's correct but having said that, I haven't received any formal advice from the government on their intentions to revoke our licences.
INDIRA MOALA: Does it disappoint you that you weren't consulted in the process? Was that a surprise to you when you heard the reports?
TP: Yeah, I'm very disappointed to see such an irresponsible action taken by the government. That's so shocking to us that the Tonga government are considering bringing in a foreign operator to take over this air service for Tonga after all the promises and the effort we put together to serve Tonga domestic air services. I'm very very disappointed to find out this way.
IM: I understand that Real Tonga had signed a three year contract with the government to provide those domestic services. Does that breach the contract at all?
TP: Of course it does. But having said that, yeah, I'm very surprised that you know, the government agreed to get us to get into such an agreement to operate this aeroplane - their aeroplane. These aeroplanes are owned by the Tonga government. And you know, we all really worked hard to get this air service going. But to find out through this way, it's really disappointing.
IM: It's widely known that there's been kind of a long standing feud between New Zealand's foreign ministry and the Tongan government on the approved certification of the MA60. Do you think that this has had an influence on those changes? Perhaps it put pressure on the Tongan government to make some changes in the civil aviation department?
TP: I can understand the hard argument and the points from both New Zealand and Tonga government which is understandable. Yeah, I think it does to a stage but I'm not fully aware of what the complete agreement the government has in place with whoever's involved with this decision making. It's all a surprise, I must say that we came a long way to comply with the standard and requirements by the government and to find out that the requirements are now changed. I haven't recieved any formal advice from the government despite several requests for clarification on the matter.
IM: Ok, how soon do you expect they might get back to you?
TP: Actually there's no definite answers or directions from government on this. The trouble we're getting here is the commercial aspect of the airline has suffered so it's really a concern to us. There's a very concerning feedback from the tourism industry and all the tourism operators around Tonga and also the wholesalers and our suppliers from overseas.
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