Air Niugini Cargo takes off
Certainly small by international airline standards, Air Niugini will never make the headlines like the ‘big boys’ of either the passenger or cargo industry. But growing alongside the surging natural-resources business in Papua New Guinea, the carrier’s CEO has a bold vision to make Air Niugini’s brand known in the US, Asia and Australian markets and that includes a maindeck foray by the carrier’s cargo division.
September 1, 2011
By Donald Urquhart
Until only a few short years ago, this ambition of the 38-year old state-owned carrier would have not only seemed impossible, but probably would have been as well. Air Niugini’s current CEO, Wasantha Kurasiri came on board nearly four years ago and from that point began the development of the carrier that now uplifts over a million passengers and 11,000 tonnes of cargo each year with a fleet of 21 aircraft.
Owing to the nature of the country – extremely rugged and mountainous with virtually no road network connecting its cities – the carrier is in an enviable position of being virtually the only means of transport to much of the country’s hinterland. The small size and basic infrastructure of country naturally leads to a fleet comprised of smaller aircraft for its domestic routes, including Fokker 100s, Dash 8 Classics and three new Q400s.
“As the Nation’s flag-carrier, we have a fundamental obligation to serve the people of Papua New Guinea – especially since the country lacks national road and rail infrastructure. This creates unique, wonderful operational challenges for the airline and it may be one of the few countries in the world that has really developed off the back of an airline,” says Kumarasiri.