It is sometimes hard to review airlines, as the point of difference is often very marginal. The product is often so similar and merely a variation of the norm. But no problem with Air Niugini, an airline we have tested many times.
Air Niugini is the national airline of Papua New Guinea. It is owned by the government and operates more or less as a monopoly.
The main competition, Airlines PNG, we were unable to test at the time as our test flight was grounded due to safety issues. It has one of the worst safety records in the world!
The only international competition is Qantas on the Cairns to Port Moresby route. Virgin Australia operates with Airlines PNG on the Brisbane Port Moresby route. No other airline operates to Papua New Guinea.
What is the difference with Air Niugini? On the negative side, plan on being late; plan for check-in taking at least an hour; assume lax security, dirty aircraft and limited information. On the plus side, add very friendly cabin crew and competent piloting. That is important in Papua New Guinea where flying is very dangerous and has one of the worst aircraft accident rates in the world. This is mainly due to the mountainous terrain, inclement weather and wind shear.
Another negative is that you pay lots of cash for the ‘privilege’ of using Air Niugini. Tickets are some of the most expensive in the world, with a domestic flight costing, in some cases, more than a transatlantic flight. There is often no alternative but to fly within Papua New Guinea, as roads do not connect all cities on the mainland, and the islands are totally reliant on flights.
Established November 1973 as the national airline of Papua New Guinea, originally to service domestic airports, Air Niugini now services a number of international destinations in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Manila and the Pacific islands. To be fair, the international fares originating outside Papua New Guinea are reasonable and it is a viable route from Australia to Japan with a transit in Port Moresby.
A code share agreement operates with Qantas on the Brisbane and Sydney routes, with flights operated by Air Niugini. International services are better than domestic services and the Boeing 767 is used on longer routes. Whilst a bit old and tired, they do offer reasonable leg room in economy. In-flight entertainment consists of a projected film and, in our experience, poor quality sound. Meals are reasonable and cabin crew are generous with wine.
There are plans to combine Air Niugini and Airlines PNG as a means to offer better service. That is on hold as result of an air crash in 2011, but could lead to reduced competition and that is a worry.
The current fleet consists of three leased Boeing 767-300ERs leased from Iceland Air. A major transformation is expected in 2014, with the arrival of the Dreamliner. Domestically the main aircraft used are Dash 8s and Fokkers, which also serve Cairns.
Air Niugini does not offer a first class service. Business class is available on some domestic services.
The in-flight magazine, Paradise, is not a bad read and has some interesting articles about Papua New Guinea which is a most interesting destination.
The Executive Club is the loyalty club of Air Niugini. It offers the usual benefits and lounge access, and is linked to Qantas.Write a Review
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