Tonga's Chathams Pacific to cease operations with entry of new carrier

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Tongan carrier Chathams Pacific Airlines has decided to cease operations on 3 March after the local government threw its support behind a new carrier.

The new airline, named Real Tonga, plans to start services on 4 March with two Harbin Y-12 aircraft and plans to add a 50-seat Xian MA60 aircraft. The aircraft are understood to have been donated by China to the Tongan government and will be leased to Real Tonga.

The carrier is owned by Palu Aviation Services, which provides line maintenance services to a number of airlines in Tonga and Samoa.

Chathams Pacific chief executive Craig Emeny says the entry of Real Tonga into the market has forced the carrier to reconsider its future in the country, with the conclusion that the market cannot support two carriers.

"The government have made it clear they wish to have another airline, and we can see we are a barrier to that getting underway," says Emeny. "That, together with the current employment difficulties [that] the uncertainty has created for the airline, means [that] the most sensible decision for Chathams Pacific is to withdraw and clear the way for the new airline. Two airlines simply will not financially survive in the Tonga market."

Chathams Pacific is fully owned by New Zealand carrier Air Chathams, and data on Flightglobal Pro shows that it operates a Fairchild Metroliner III.