Nauru airline trebles in size through asylum seeker camp traffic
Nauru airline, Our Airline, trebles in size on back of asylum camp traffic.
A major beneficiary of the Australian-run asylum seeker camps on Nauru has been the island's air carrier, Our Airline.
Nauru's national airline has gone from flying a single 737 aircraft to three of the Boeing jets.
The chief executive of the Brisbane-based airline Geoff Bowmaker told Don Wiseman the establishment of the camps has had a dramatic impact on their business.
GEOFF BOWMAKER: That's brought with it a lot of extra movement of people requirements between Australia and Nauru in relation to people that are contracted to build and run the facilities over there. So that's a big part of the increased activity. Another part of our increased activity is undertaking charter work within Australia, also connected with the movement of asylum seekers after they've arrived in Australia and being part of the movement of those people between various detention centres in Australia.
DON WISEMAN: They're not cheap, though, and I know that Our Airline struggled initially with funding for the first aircraft, so who paid for these other two?
GB: Well, we've been able to purchase those aircraft with the retained earnings that we have through the additional work that we've got. We're buying 737-300s that are now sort of 15 years old, the ones that we're getting, so they're not new-generation aircraft with the price tags that they have. But, yes, they're still not an inexpensive commodity, but we've been able to purchase those, given the amount of additional work that we've attracted because of this focus on Nauru as the offshore processing centre.
DW: That processing centre, of course, is a controversial development. It may well not last, so what does that do to your three-plane airline then?
GB: Well, there's a lot of charter work within Australia that we were doing previously, prior to the concentration on the asylum seeker activity, which we're now not involved in. So we certainly have the ability to go back to that kind of work that we were servicing prior to the increased activity relating to Nauru. So there are certainly markets that are available to us in the future, should one line of activity fall away. So we're fairly confident that we would have the work for three aircraft should something occur, should this line of activity disappear, we'll certainly be pretty busy, we believe.
DW: The airline has, in the past, flown routes through to Tarawa, to the Marshall Islands and to Nadi.
GB: At the moment we're covering the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, down to Fiji, so we're still operating and connecting those ports with Nauru and Brisbane. So that hasn't lessened. In fact, Majuro was added in December last year, so we've almost completed a complete first year of operations through Majuro and it's quite good to see the traffic on those services developing the way it is.
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