Air Niugini (PX, Port Moresby) is in talks regarding the replacement of its Fokker Aircraft and Boeing aircraft, as it hopes to secure better terms given the general scarcity of new orders caused by the COVID-crisis, State Enterprise Minister Sasindran Muthuvel told The National.

"Airlines across the world are hurting, and aircraft manufacturers are very keen to sell aircraft. This is the perfect time for Air Niugini to negotiate the lowest possible price for replacements for its Fokker and B737 fleet," he said.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, the airline operates six Fokker 70s, seven Fokker 100s, one B737-700, and one B737-800.

Former Chief Executive Alan Milne told ch-aviation in mid-2019 that the B737NGs were due to leave the fleet by the end of 2020. However, they were originally scheduled to be replaced with the first two out of four B737-8s which Air Niugini has on firm order. Since then, the carrier has deferred the deliveries of the MAX 8s to at least 2024 and hinted that it could change its future refleeting strategy. Earlier in 2020, before the proposed Boeing/Embraer tie-up collapsed, Milne hinted at E2 regional jets as a possible future aircraft for Air Niugini.

The Fokkers were originally due for replacement in 2022-23. Milne said last year that while the airframes themselves could continue flying for another decade or so, the serviceability of their engines was proving increasingly cumbersome.

Muthuvel said that Air Niugini would also retire its two B767-300(ER)s by the end of 2020. The airline originally planned to retire the type in 2021.

The minister underlined that Air Niugini's decent financial standing allowed it to use the crisis as an opportunity to accelerate the needed fleet renewal.

Air Niugini did not receive any government assistance during the COVID-19 crisis. In order to weather the downturn, the airline drew on a PGK20 million kina (USD5.8 million) commercial loan.