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“Open Skies” Agreement Signed With Tonga

Transport Minister Mark Gosche says a new “open skies” agreement signed today will benefit travellers and traders between Tonga and New Zealand.

Tongan Prime Minister and Minister of Civil Aviation, Prince Ulukalala Lavaka ‘Ata, today signed the agreement in Tonga with New Zealand’s Acting High Commissioner in Nuku’alofa, Gareth Smith.

Mr Gosche said that under the new arrangements both countries’ airlines may operate over any routing, and with unlimited aircraft capacity.

“There are no limitations on the number of airlines of each party that may start services, and liberal tariff and airline ownership provisions are included. Code sharing is also permitted, including on the aircraft of third countries, enabling airlines to expand the services they offer to other regional destinations.”

The agreement also allows New Zealand and Tongan airlines to establish themselves in each other’s countries and operate services to third countries without any requirement for the services to touch the airline’s home country. The technical term for this is “seventh freedom” services.

Tonga’s national carrier, Royal Tongan Airlines, currently code shares on Air New Zealand services to New Zealand. Air New Zealand operates four Auckland-Nuku’alofa return services per week and one service per week beyond Tonga, to Los Angeles via Apia.

The new agreement replaces previous arrangements dating from 1980. Mr Gosche said that during the negotiations the Tongan delegation expressed concern about the timing of Air New Zealand services through Tonga.

“Air New Zealand has worked closely with the Pacific tourism industry for many years, and has generally tried to be responsive to the needs of smaller island countries. I am therefore pleased to note that Air New Zealand has rescheduled the arrival time of its Saturday Auckland-Nuku’alofa flight, so that passengers arrive in the afternoon rather than late evening. This also gives passengers the option of connecting directly to Tongan domestic services.”

Tonga is now New Zealand’s third “open skies” partner in the South Pacific, joining Samoa and the Cook Islands.

“Like our “open skies” agreements with our other Pacific Island neighbours, today’s agreement will result in greater flexibility in the provision of air services within the region,” said Mr Gosche.

Ends

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