PNG’s aviation sector soars with new Airbus A220 aircraft

Nov 3, 2023 | Blog, News

Papua New Guinea’s aviation sector has embarked on a transformative journey by acquiring six new Airbus A220 aircraft as part of Air Niugini’s fleet replacement program. This purchase, amounting to a total of K1.11 billion (about A$430 million), represents a significant leap forward in the country’s commitment to modernising its airline services.

The interior of an A220 aircraft (courtesy Airbus Industrie).

The Airbus A220 is a game-changing addition to the Air Niugini fleet, with each aircraft valued at about A$63 million. This new acquisition of six A220 aircraft is just the beginning, with plans to purchase an additional five and lease them, ultimately forming a fleet of 11. The arrival of the first Airbus A220 is scheduled for 2025, aligning with PNG’s 50th year of independence celebration, marking a symbolic milestone in the country’s history.

Air Niugini’s Acting Chief Executive, Gary Seddon, highlighted the significance of this investment, saying, “This is for the boy standing on the other side of the fence looking in wondering if he will get on that plane, this is for you – the passengers, the families, the workers from the maintenance crew to the pilots, to the office workers who work behind the scenes, bringing Air Niugini to continue to provide air travel to PNG, this one is for you.”

Minister for State Owned Enterprise, William Duma, echoed the sentiment, calling the Airbus A220 “the game-changing plane for the country.”

This transformative move underscores the importance of Air Niugini, the nation’s flag carrier, which has played a pivotal role in connecting families, friends, colleagues, and organizations over the last 50 years. The airline’s role as a symbol of unity and national pride is deeply rooted in PNG’s history. In 1972, then chief minister Sir Michael Somare recognised the value of a “single national airline with PNG government involvement” as a source of national unity.

The Airbus A220 jets are set to replace Air Niugini’s current fleet of Fokker 100/70s and Boeing 737s on domestic and regional international routes from 2025. These modern aircraft will bring the latest technology, fuel efficiency, and the most comfortable passenger cabins in their class. They will primarily serve domestic routes while offering the flexibility to operate new regional international routes, supporting trade and tourism growth in PNG.

Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer and head of international, underscored the A220’s benefits, saying, “Air Niugini has seen how much more the A220 brings to their airline than the competing product in this space, so much more efficiency, range, comfort, and growth potential.”

To further enhance operational efficiency and safety, Air Niugini has chosen a flight planning support system from Airbus subsidiary NAVBLUE, called N-Flight Planning (N-FP). This solution will optimise fuel consumption, time management, and operational costs while ensuring overall safety and compliance.

The Airbus A220 is not only a significant development for Air Niugini but also a testament to PNG’s commitment to enhancing its aviation sector. With its modern fleet and continued dedication to connecting the nation and the world, Air Niugini is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of air travel in PNG. As of the end of September, Airbus has received over 800 orders for the A220 from around 30 customers, with more than 280 already delivered, cementing the aircraft’s reputation as a preferred choice among airlines worldwide.