AIR NIUGINI heralded the beginning of a new era in Papua New Guinean aviation on 1 November when its new low-cost subsidiary Link PNG made its maiden flight.

The company said its new low-budget carrier would make domestic air travel more accessible for the local population and the inaugural flight, from Lae to Hoskins to Rabaul, was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The company said the new carrier would service routes on a “community service obligation, ensuring that not only less profitable services are maintained, but progressively expanded to meet the growing transport needs of this nation and its people”.

“Since 2010, the Enga Provincial Government has been providing subsidies to allow the airline to increase its flights and also continue operations into Wapenamanda airport,” Air Niugini said in a statement.

“Link PNG will be a smarter, less ‘frills’ and low cost carrier that will principally service routes to provincial and district centres,” the company said in a statement.

The airline started daily services to Wapenamanda Airport in Enga Province in late November, with hundreds turning out to welcome the flight.

Enga Province governor Peter Ipatas used the occasion to present his provincial government’s final quarter airfare subsidy to the new airline.

He said the province had provided a total of K1 million of subsidies this year.

All operations will be carried out with a Dash 8 classic fleet and the airline’s inaugural chief executive is Daniel Wanma.

The PNG government announced in September that 49 per cent of Air Niugini would be put up for sale in a part-privatisation plan extending across a number of government assets.