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First Air Kiribati Jet Arriving By Year End, Confirms Manufolau

Air Kiribati will receive the first of its two Embraer 190-E2 jets at the end of this year for services including to Fiji.
23 Oct 2019 12:53
First Air Kiribati Jet Arriving By Year End, Confirms Manufolau
Artist’s impression of Air Kiribati Embraer jet ... coming soon with Chinese help Photo: Airways Magazine

Air Kiribati will receive the first of its two Embraer 190-E2 jets at the end of this year for services including to Fiji.

This was confirmed by the Tourism Authority of Kiribati chief executive officer Petero Manufolau on the margins of the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic and Development Forum in Apia.

The planes are a key component of efforts by Kiribati to lessen dependence on airlines of other countries and at the same time build sustainable tourism and the economy.

They also underscore the support Kiribati is getting from China following its switching of diplomatic relations to China and ending of links with Taiwan.

Mr Manufolau, an experienced and well qualified airline, resort and destination marketeer, was recruited from Fiji by Kiribati to lead the newly established tourism authority.

He will drive Kiribati’s tourism development.

Mr Manufolau was in Apia as part of the Kiribati Government delegation led by Minister of Environment, Land and Agriculture Development, Alexander Teabo.

The new jets will have a local as well as international impact.

They improve links within this vast scattered atolls island nation. Currently to fly from Tarawa, the capital and in the west, to Kiritimati, the largest land mass and tourism hub, in the east, means flying via Nadi with Fiji Airways.

Kiritimati is internationally famous for its fishing, both game and bone fishing.

Currently Air Kiribati has only a fleet of smaller turboprops for short-range inter-island flights and a service to Funafuti in Tuvalu.

Diplomatic ties

Kiribati this year switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China.

A major factor was apparently financing of the new E190-E2 aircraft, according to multiple reports.

The reports said the Kiribati Government sought help from Taiwan in the purchase.

Taiwan instead proposed a straight commercial loan, the reports said.

China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has been isolating Taiwan diplomatically, came up with a much better help offer, the reports said.

With all purchase options exercised (two firm orders and two options) total value of the Air Kiribati jet buy is US$243 million based on list prices.

Edited by Ivamere Nataro

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