The Tongan government has given its initial consent to sell state-owned Lulutai Airlines (L8, Tongatapu) to the privately owned, albeit dormant carrier, Fly Niu Airlines (Tongatapu).

According to Kaniva News, the finalisation of the agreement will depend on its review by a newly installed government. If all goes according to plan, the two parties could complete the transaction in early 2022.

However, Matangi Tonga said Interim Prime Minister Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa's decision to offload the national carrier had raised concern over the future of domestic flights within the Tongan archipelago. Lulutai was founded to ensure such services after another privately-owned airline, Real Tonga Airlines (R4, Tongatapu), had failed to do so.

Fly Niu and Peau Vavau (3O, Tongatapu) had operated domestic air services in Tonga until the government introduced its one airline policy in 2004, resulting in Fly Niu losing its permit. The move effectively gave Peau Vava'u, an airline owned by Crown Prince Tupouto’a, a monopoly in the local market before it too collapsed in 2009.

The report claims that Fly Niu's founder and owner, ‘Atu Finau, now the Chief Executive Officer of Air Vanuatu (NF, Port Vila), visited Tonga recently, and there is speculation that he may either revive Fly Niu or extend Air Vanuatu's service to include domestic Tongan flights.

None of the parties involved was available for comment.