Air Niugini looks to gradually expand international services


With its domestic services in Papua New Guinea close to pre-COVID levels, national carrier Air Niugini is now looking to increase its international services, as it continues to provide an international economic lifeline for the country.

Credit: Air Niugini

Air Niugini is currently the only airline flying in and out of PNG since the withdrawal of Qantas, Virgin and Philippine Airlines almost a year ago.

It is flying cargo and limited numbers of passengers between Port Moresby and Brisbane five times a week, Singapore four times a week, Manila twice a week, and Cairns and Hong Kong weekly.

In a nutshell

  • Domestic and cargo services close to pre-COVID levels
  • More services to Hong Kong, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns planned
  • Quarantine arrangements still the major constraint on international travel

There are plans to increase international flights at the end of next month, with Hong Kong moving to a twice-weekly service from 3 April, under a codeshare arrangement with Cathay Pacific that will utilise Air Niugini’s Boeing 767 aircraft. Sydney flights will start again on 29 March and more flights will also be added to the Brisbane and Cairns.

The Hong Kong flights open up new opportunities to bring freight and essential travellers to and from Port Moresby, including the export of live crabs, lobsters and other products from PNG to Asian markets.

Low numbers

International passenger numbers remain low because of COVID-19 restrictions, with the airline operating at 15 per cent of passenger capacity during January, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Most passenger travel is for essential workers in fields such as health, mining, oil and gas.

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‘Our cargo numbers have held up very well. We are carrying the same volumes as pre-pandemic.’

‘Quarantine rules at both ends of each international route are the real inhibitors of leisure travel at the moment,’ says David Glover, the airline’s General Manager of Network and Revenue. ‘Whilst these restrictions are understandable under the pandemic, nobody is going to isolate for two weeks when they get to a place (for holidays) and then another two weeks when they return.’

As yet, there are no flights to Pacific nations, but it’s hoped that services can start as the nations ease their respective COVID-19 travel restrictions, some of which require 21 days in quarantine.

Most of Air Niugini’s international flights are on the wide-body 767, which has the capacity to carry large payloads of cargo as well as passengers.

‘Our cargo numbers have held up very well,’ says Glover. ‘We are carrying the same volumes as pre-pandemic.’

Home sweet home

Air Niugini

Pictured is the crew of Air Niugini Boeing 767 flight carrying over 16 tonnes of cargo mostly Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from Guangdong Province, China. From left; Airside Operations Manager at Ground Operations Mr Peter Toroiye, First Officer Fred Puni, First Officer Alan Pumphrey, Captain Maurice Rondeau, Captain Neil Sexton and Engineer Ólafur Ketilsson. Credit: Air Niugini

Domestically, Air Niugini is flying to all of its pre-COVID destinations except Lihir Island, which remains closed to commercial flights for COVID-19-related reasons but is serviced by charter services.

‘Our domestic passenger numbers are within one or two per cent of pre-COVID demand, so we are pretty well running at 100 per cent of normal capacity,’ Glover says.

Air Niugini passengers flying internationally and domestically are required to wear masks.

‘We are providing passengers with masks if they don’t have them already, sanitiser is being provided and aircraft are being cleaned and sanitised on turnaround for both domestic and international flights,’ Glover says.

International arrivals need to quarantine at a hotel in Port Moresby for 14 days, have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within seven days of their flight, and have approval to enter the country from the SOE Controller. This is in addition to the usual visa requirements to enter the PNG.

For up-to-date schedules and COVID-19 travel requirements for different countries, go to Air Niugini’s travel advice page at

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