Papua New Guinea and Japan have signed a new air services agreement that increases the number of flights permitted between the countries.

The agreement gives Papua New Guinea two flights per week to Tokyo Narita, up from one, says Colin Lyttle, general manager marketing at Air Niugini, the only carrier to serve the Tokyo-Port Moresby sector.

The extension of runway B at Narita airport has resulted in more slots becoming available, he adds.

His airline, however, has no plans to increase its once-weekly non-stop service to twice weekly. The global economic downturn has adversely affected yields and Air Niugini's service to Japan are still subsidised by the Papua New Guinea government, says Lyttle.

Air Niugini announced in 2008 that it planned to withdraw from the loss-making route. However, political lobbying from the country's fishing industry, which relies on the belly-hold space to transport tuna to markets in Japan, resulted in the government intervening and offering a subsidy to keep the service going.

Lyttle says passenger demand fluctuates and those travelling on the route are mostly Japanese tourists who come to dive, trek or see Papua New Guinea's Second World War relics.

He also confirms that the new air services agreement allows Papua New Guinean carriers more frequencies to Osaka Kansai, and adds Nagoya to the list of Japanese destinations they can serve.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news