AIR NIUGINI delivered a dividend payment of K20 million to the State in December through Kumul Consolidated Holdings and in doing so urged the national government to expand its airport infrastructure and facilities improvement program.

Kumul Consolidated Holdings is responsible for the national government’s shareholdings in state owned enterprises, including Air Niugini.

In making the presentation, Air Niugini chairman Frederick Reiher said the end of the first LNG project construction phase had been a challenge, with the airline having benefited significantly from increased traffic.

“The re-fleeting program now under way will see Air Niugini with more efficient and more passenger friendly aircraft ensuring all mainline services were operated by jet power aircraft. It will also enhance our growing South Pacific regional presence.”

Mr Reiher said even with the re-fleeting program, the board and management are concerned the economic environment in which the airline operates in will continue to be difficult and put pressure on revenue.

Acknowledging a number of infrastructure projects delivered in the last year by the national government, Mr Reiher said they were now benefiting not just the airlines’ passengers, but also enabling services to be improved.

“The redevelopment of Port Moresby airport is enabling passenger movements to much easier, and the modern airport terminal is now assisting with the airline’s commitment to making Port Moresby a regional hub for airlines in the South Pacific.”

“The re-development of Mt. Hagen and Alotau airports which are now completed, and the work under way at the Goroka airport as well the upcoming re-development of Nadzab (Lae) airport will benefit Air Niugini and the whole airline industry,” he said

To achieve maximum efficiency Air Niugini must double the average of five hours a day it currently has for domestic flying, Mr Reiher stressed.

“Air Niugini encourages the national government, and the National Airports Authority to expand the program of installing night navigation aids and airport lighting at all major domestic airports.”

“The introduction of the Fokker F70 jet aircraft to service all major domestic airports is well suited to night flying provided the best navigation aids and air field lighting is installed and maintained.”

Mr Reiher thanked the prime minister and his government for its support for the airline.

“I also want to acknowledge the loyalty, hard work, and confidence of the airline’s management team and more than 2,000 employees who have worked together during the challenging transitional period the airline is going through.”

Renegotiation of employee contracts of the airline’s pilots and others to follow had helped ensure the airline remains financially sound in a challenging airline industry and economic environment, according to Mr Reiher.

“Wider cost cutting and restructuring measures now under way will help ensure the airline remains not just viable, but is also able to improve its fleet and expand services to meet passenger demands,” he added.