DIRECT flights between Port Moresby and Townsville will be a reality by March, with national Papua New Guinean carrier Air Niugini set to announce a biweekly service.
Air Niugini chairman Sir Frederick Reiher is expected to make the announcement in Port Moresby later today.
The Bulletin understands the airline will launch a twice-a-week service using Fokker 70 aircraft in March, with the possibility of more frequent flights if there’s enough demand.
The announcement follows years of attempts by Townsville Airport and the Chamber of Commerce to woo Air Niugini, with Sir Reiher and Air Niugini chief executive officer Simon Foo visiting Townsville earlier this year.
The route will be Townsville’s second international destination, following the start of Bali flights in September 2015.
The flights will cover the distance between the two cities in just over an hour-and-a-half.
Mayor Jenny Hill said it was great news for Townsville and it came on the back of other positive announcements including Adani picking the city for its regional headquarters and the signing of the City Deal.
“Instead of flying to Brisbane or Cairns, people will be able to fly from Townsville and pick up connecting flights to Singapore or Narita (International Airport in Japan),” she said.
“There have been strong links between Townsville and Port Moresby for many years, particular in business and this will help to continue that strong relationship.”
Ms Hill said local businesses would need to support the service to encourage additional flights in the future.
“If the service is well-patronised it’s going to make it easier for the company to decide to put on more services,” she said.
Townsville Airport chief operating officer Kevin Gill said as well as enhancing the relationship between Port Moresby and Townsville, the link would mean better connections with our Air Niugini destinations such as Japan and Singapore.
“Townsville Airport sees this as the beginning of a much stronger relationship between our region and PNG,” he said.
“The service will provide opportunities across a range of sectors including health, education, business, mining, defence and tourism.”
Townsville Enterprise Limited policy and investment director Michael McMillan said once the flights were established TEL would talk with Townsville City Council and other stakeholders about the viability of a trade mission.
“It‘s all about accessibility and the more we can advance that, the better it will be for everyone,” he said.
“Beyond PNG we’ll look at New Zealand and Singapore in the short to medium term.”
Among the organisations set to benefit from the services is mission organisation Youth With A Mission, which regularly runs outreach programs to remote Papua New Guinean villages.
YWAM managing director Ken Mulligan said the service would make it easier to build the connection between Townsville and Port Moresby.
“In my mind it’s a wonderful announcement and it will open up so much more opportunity for us as a city to strengthen the relationship both ways,” he said.