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Air Niugini steps up precaution, suffering financial impact of coronavirus

Air Niugini has stepped up precautionary measures on the evolving situation to ensure travelling passengers are protected.

Managing director, Alan Milne said in a press statement yesterday that the health and safety of the people of Papua New Guinea, passengers and crew were always absolute priority.

Milne said Air Niugini has always been proud of the steps it undertakes every day to ensure world’s best protocols in protecting the health and safety of passengers and staffs were in place.

“The World Health Organisation has advised that there is extremely low risk of cross-transmission between passengers and crew. To date there has been no confirmed in flight transmission of Covid-19 anywhere in the world. Despite that, Air Niugini has taken a number of steps to enhance protection on all its flights and reduce any risks of Covid-19 that maybe spread by travellers,” the managing director said.

Milne added that Air Niugini was already ensuring its aircrafts were sprayed with hospital type disinfectant every night as the plans were at a maintenance base.

“This includes Port Moresby and every transit through Port Moresby. We use an antibacterial, antimicrobial cleaning product that reduces the risk of harmful viruses, moulds, fungus, algae and any other possible harmful pathogenic bacteria. We are also ensuring that all our offices are interact with the customers and even sales outlet, are sprayed with disinfectant every night,” Milne said.

All Air Niugini Boeing and Fokker jet aircraft are fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which perform similarly to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating rooms. This means the air quality on the aircraft is essentially sterile and particle-free.”

“We are also replacing head rest covers every time an aircraft transits through Port Moresby, removing in-flight magazines from all our aircraft, headsets, blankets and headrests off all seats prior to cleaning to reduce any risk of cross-transmission, and replacing earpiece covers on all distributed headsets after every flight whenever their sealed container has been opened and ensuring the in-flight blankets are cleaned using industrial laundry practises,” he added.

Milne said all Air Niugini flights were equipped with hand sanitiser and face masks if any guest presents as unwell or with flu-like symptoms on one of the flights, they would be provided with a face mask and hand sanitiser.

He said Air Niugini has also reduced and cancelled flights voluntarily for those locations where the infection rates were previously increasing rapidly such as Asia, and will continue to do so to all locations showing signs of significant spread.

Air Niugini also urged the public to visit Air Niugini’s Facebook page to ensure they had the correct and up-to-date travel updates.

Meanwhile, Minister for State Enterprises Sasindran Muthuvel said coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuing to have severe impacts on the national carrier Air Niugini, along with the rest of the business community.

Muthuvel said they are considering ways to give Air Niugini a cash injection to make up for its loss of revenue, which is estimated at K12 million(US$3.5million) a month.

He said about K30 million(US$8.7 million) will be required by the end of this month, and this will rise if further international travel restrictions and flight schedule cuts are imposed.

“KCH and Air Niugini are working on a number of options to raise extra working capital,” Muthuvel said.

“I am extremely concerned and saddened at the difficulties being experienced, especially in the case of Air Niugini. Its revenue has suffered from measures taken internationally to lessen the impact of the pandemic and from its own responses to protect the health of Papua New Guineans, including cutting some international flight schedules.”

Muthuvel said the airline has taken drastic action to reduce international flights to and from high-risk ports, and continues to comply with strict precautionary measures while processing international passengers.

“At the same time as its revenue is declining, Air Niugini is taking every step necessary to ensure that as many domestic flights are available as possible. Protection of domestic services remains a priority,” he said.

“The quickest partial solution is for the Government to settle its K23 million(US$6.7 million) debt on the Falcon jet and for its sale to be completed at a realistic price. Given prevailing world economic conditions there has been a lack of interest in the aircraft and no firm offers have been made.”

He said other options include short-term loans, debt refinancing and the sale and leaseback of property.
In the meantime, KCH and Air Niugini are monitoring international developments that might have further impacts on the airline’s revenue.

“To comply with the duty of care the Marape Government has to its citizens, Air Niugini has had to make painful decisions that have affected its financial health and there may be tougher decisions to come,” Minister Muthuvel said. “Now we must find the right medicine to restore the national airline.”.


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