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Clarification regarding Kingdom Air

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

After reading Kisione Manu's letter of 24 January, I feel compelled to correct the report in the Taimi Tonga of the 23rd of January and to clarify some misunderstandings that may have resulted from Taimi's report regarding Kingdom Air's application for a domestic air services license in Tonga last year. In this regard:

1). Kingdom Air Services Limited was a company formed by five local business men (including two former Royal Tongan pilots now both working overseas and myself) in conjunction with a significant offshore investor, to apply for a domestic air services license following the collapse of Royal Tongan Airlines in March 2004. The local shareholders were to hold only a minority interest (25% between them) in the company.

2). Kingdom Air Services principals were firmly of the view that the Tongan domestic market could only support one carrier, and as such our application for a domestic air services license, filed on May 25 last year, was entirely conditioned upon Kingdom Air being granted the sole and exclusive license to operate the domestic air service for all islands in the Tonga group. At all meetings with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and other government ministers this point was made very clear.

3). While the principals of Kingdom Air attended several meetings with government officials, including the Secretary of Civil Aviation, the Deputy Prime Minister Cecil Cocker and elected Members of Parliament regarding our application, as well as copying all of the Cabinet Ministers with our business proposal, we never sought or received any direct assistance or intervention from any Government Minister or MP in relation to our application.

4). On August 4 last year, at a meeting with the Secretary of Civil Aviation the principals of Kingdom Air were advised that, despite prior assurances to the contrary, Kingdom Air's application for a domestic air license was effectively defunct as a decision had been reached to grant a license to one of the two then existing operators, Peau Vava'u and Air Niu, and that that license would now be issued on August 14, as opposed to November 1, as originally advised. At this point Kingdom Air was effectively partnered with New Zealand's second largest airline, (a representative of which attended the August 4 meeting with the Secretary of Civil Aviation), and we were sincerely disappointed with the Ministry...‚s decision as we sincerely believed our proposal had the strongest merits and offered the best long term solution to the domestic air service crisis. Kingdom Air forwarded one final letter to the Secretary of Civil Aviation (copied to all Cabinet members) seeking formal clarification of the government...‚s position in relation to our application, to which no response was ever received. The license was issued to Peau Vava'u on August 14 after which time Kingdom Air's application was abandoned at the agreement of all of its shareholders as it was no longer viewed as a worthwhile endeavour.

Given the above, the inference in the Taimi's article that the then Minister of Police, Clive Edwards, championed the cause of Air Niu and a competitive domestic air service market as a way of trying to secure benefit for Kingdom Air is without merit. Mr. Edwards actually supported the issuing of two licenses and open competition, which was not an acceptable position to the principals of Kingdom Air.

Furthermore at the time Mr. Edwards was supporting this position in cabinet, Kingdom Air had already abandoned its application, and was certainly not in any way involved in the legal contest between Air Niu and Peau Vava'u.

I trust that this information helps to clarify any issues surrounding Kingdom Air for you and your readers.


Steve Edwards