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BTC direct Brisbane to Tonga flight project a step closer to reality

Updated: Feb 13, 2019

Sulieni Layt of Pasifika Media

Brisbane, AUSTRALIA: The Brisbane Tongan Community Inc. (BTC) initiated a proposal to establish a direct commercial flight between Brisbane (BNE) and the Kingdom of Tonga (TBU) in mid-2018 as part of a wider goal of developing improved trade and mutually beneficial economic links between the Kingdom of Tonga and the Sunshine State.

That one step closer to a direct flight to the Kingdom of Tonga from Brisbane, QLD Australia

The Brisbane Tongan Community along with the business and tourist sector currently travel indirectly from Brisbane to the Kingdom of Tonga, usually transiting in Auckland (AKL), Nadi (NAN) and Sydney (SYD). To ensure that our community’s needs are a priority and to raise the profile of the Friendly Islands as a new travel destination for the Australian and broader Asian and European tourist markets, BTC embarked on an ambitious project to seek airlines that would consider servicing this route. After conducting a draft feasibility study, BTC approached three Australian carriers, all of whom turned down our proposal.

"Our community's needs are a priority and to raise the profile of the Friendly Islands as a new travel destination for the Australian and broader Asian and European tourist markets."

BTC then reached out to Mr Tevita Palu, CEO of Real Tonga Airlines in Nuku‘alofa, and proposed to engage with several Pacific Island and/or Asian carriers to seek their interest in this untested route with provision of equipment. The challenge was to establish a route that has never been tested and therefore has never had a direct commercial flight to the Kingdom of Tonga. Furthermore, this meant a lack of available market research to strengthen our proposal.

BTC first approached Brisbane-based Nauru Airlines and conducted several self-funded site visits to the Real Tonga Airlines facilities in Nuku‘alofa and Fua‘amotu International Airport as well as sampling the domestic service between Tongatapu (#TBU) and the world’s shortest commercial flight to ‘Eua (#EUA) as a road test.

BTC then began to provide support and advocacy to pull together meetings between Nauru Airlines and Real Tonga Airlines to the negotiating table. BTC met with the Tongan Prime Minister, Hon. Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pōhiva, along with his delegation during a transit through Brisbane outbound to the APEC meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in November 2018.

It was this meeting that drew the strong interest of the Tongan Prime Minister, which played a roll in a subsequent collaborative meeting between Nauru Airlines executives, Real Tonga Airlines and the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga at the Prime Minister’s Office in Nuku‘alofa.

The Tongan Government and BTC’s Press Release at the time generated overwhelming interest from the diaspora as well as Tongan media in Australia, New Zealand and the Kingdom of Tonga.

On 18 January 2019, BTC welcomed Mr Tevita Palu to Brisbane, introducing committee members during a celebration dinner at George’s Paragon on the iconic Brisbane River.

BTC Committee members with Mr Tevita Palu, CEO of Real Tonga Airlines

BTC has continued to meet with a range of stakeholders from marketing representatives, travel sector professionals and aviation solution experts to provide maximum support to the Kingdom’s national carrier, Real Tonga Airlines. (#KingdomofTonga #BNEtoTBU #BTC)

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