Lulutai Airlines (L8, Tongatapu) began commercial flight operations on Thursday, September 24, a day after the granting of its Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) - CAD/AOC/01/20 - by the Tongan Civil Aviation Division.

A government statement said the start-up would connect Tongatapu with Vava'u, Ha'apai, Niuafo'ou, and Niuatoputapu initially using a S340B(Plus) and a Y12. The two aircraft were formerly in service with the privately-owned Real Tonga Airlines (R4, Tongatapu).

Real Tonga Airlines' owner, Tevita Palu, told Matangi Tonga news that he had had to borrow USD600,000 to repair the Saab turboprop after it suffered a serious birdstrike on climb out from Lupepau’u Airport, Vava’u, in May. And although the aircraft has now been repaired, its lessor, Montrose Global, cancelled the Real Tonga contract before placing it with Lulutai. The Y12, which was also used by Real Tonga, is owned by the government as is an MA-60.

Lulutai is wholly-owned by the Tongan government. Its entire staff compliment, Palu claimed, was taken from Real Tonga.