Tonga's second largest airport, Vava'u, will begin scheduled international operations later this year the Tongan government has announced. Located 320km north-east of Nuku'alofa, Vava'u is one of Tonga's most important tourist hot spots.

Following extensive talks between Tongan Prime Minister, ‘Akilisi Pohiva, and his Fijian counterpart Frank Voreqe Bainimarama in Fiji last week, Nukuʻalofa said Fiji Airways (FJ, Nadi) would begin offering direct Nadi-Vava'u flights in November of this year.

The Tongan government has already moved to upgrade security as well as embarkation facilities at the airport in preparation for Vava'u's transition into an international gateway.

The decision to open up Vava'u to international operations has, however, raised concern with local operator Real Tonga Airlines (RLT, Tongatapu) which says the loss of transit passengers and revenue may impact its ability to subsidize other strategically important, though less commercially-viable, local destinations such as Eua, Ha'apai, Niuafo'ou, and Niuatoputapu.

As Tongatapu is currently the archipelago's only international gateway, so passengers are forced to make use of Real Tonga's weekly services to Vava'u.