The micro-carriers of the North Pacific have decided that group profits are better than individual losses, and are moving to form a joint airline.

Led by Air Marshall Islands, the tiny island carriers have set up a working party whose task is to formulate an aircraft share scheme which meets all scheduling needs and maximises fleet utilisation.

The step towards combined operations by the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu follows a gathering of island heads of state in March. Phillip Muller, Marshall Islands foreign minister, says there was a consensus that a regional approach was urgently needed. The group is following the lead of South Pacific airlines which are already increasing combined operations to curb disastrous losses over the past few years.

Like the South Pacific, the North Pacific carriers have been lured into uneconomic operations through pressures to operate their own national flags and implement over ambitious plans involving unsuitable aircraft. Kiribati's airline operates a range of small turboprops while Air Nauru has two B737 jets. 'We are now moving back into profitability and believe the time has come for everyone to work together,' says David Tejada, commercial director of Air Marshall Islands. The airline, which already 'doubles' as the national carrier of Tuvalu, will take delivery of two new Saab 2000s this year.

One problem has been finding a suitable aircraft type to operate the unique island network. 'What they need is a turboprop with the speed and economics of a B747,' an analyst observes. Tejada considers the Saab 2000 the first aircraft that promises to meet that requirement.

Source: Airline Business