Send responses to this document to Rotuman Forum for posting. Please include your full name and current home city.
From Fiji Times Online (21 April 2013)
Letters to the Editor: email@example.com
Rotuma air services
I READ somewhere on the web the wonderful slogan for our domestic airline Pacific Sun 'Best value under the Sun'.
Pacific Sun management and bosses are urged to treat their patrons and the islanders of Rotuma with more dignity and be more responsible and more sympathetic in the caring manner you run your air services from Fiji to Rotuma.
On Friday April 19, 2013, at least 12 passengers left their homes as early as 12.30am from Suva and made confirmed holiday plans from as far as Hawaii to visit their exotic, incomparable island paradise.
A traditional island welcome was organised on the island to welcome the arrival of a new member of a family.
A lot of preparation went into welcoming a kainaga who now makes his return to the island after 30 long years. Not far behind was a father who excitedly looked forward to meeting up with his daughter and niece with friends from Fiji.
And he is going back after 28 years since his school days. A group of five were greatly anticipated by their friends and brothers in Rotuma.
One should have been at the Nadi International Airport to see the smiling beaming faces braving the cool morning, happily queued up among the group with baggages prepared with much love and care for their island kinsfolk.
And then we got the best value under the sun. Of the 12 but maybe more passengers (too dejected to count) that turned up and had called Pacific Sun a day earlier and were confirmed booked to fly were shot by the sacrificial lamb behind the counter when they said they would only take four passengers.
Months of preparation and anticipation, fares paid at least two months in advance of $632 one way at least Pacific Sun got the best value on bank interests under the sun.
We urge Pacific Sun please, to do justice to your air services to Rotuma.
With the many economic investments going into Rotuma, you need to allow a wider neck for your bottle. Investors and peoples' time is important and patrons plan their holidays and events months and months well in advance.
Help the island grow its economy and have in place a regular, reliable and trustworthy service.
Should a flight get cancelled because of bad weather or over booked cargo, can you consider running a supplementary flight for people as soon as possible if not on the same day?
The people of Rotuma support Pacific Sun well by putting up with airfares that can take them two return trips to overseas destinations.
One of our nieces travelled to Rotuma three weeks ago and the same incident was experienced at the Nadi International Airport. She was called three times to go to the airport with three cancellations. We understand this is an ongoing problem with Pacific Sun and their flight to Rotuma. We too want the 'Best value under the sun' for Rotuma air service.
I read with interest your online article in the Fiji Times Online (April 21st)
Like you said in your article - Pacific Sun need to greatly improve their air services
Letter to the Editor, Fiji Sun Online (24 April 2013)
I would like to respond in support of Allen Lockington's letter on Sunday, April 21, 2013
I am an Australian citizen living with my Rotuman husband and family in Rotuma for the
In one particular incident, a friend from Australia was coming to visit us in Rotuma for
I thought I could quickly buy some chocolates or some stuff for the kids back home so I
Both agreed that it would be too late.
Back home in Auckland I rang Rotuma to tell mum I have arrived safely and to also tell
To my surprise I was told that there was no plane on that day as the flight was cancelled. I
I now understand why Rotuma passengers spend money on expensive transport to the
This has been a regular occurrence and it makes one wonder if it is pure incompetence or
I hear of a new airline to service outlining islands like Rotuma. I say bring it on! Rotuma
If I may suggest, couldn't the service be run like international flights whereby you book,
Pacific Sun will have a lot to answer for their irregular air services to Rotuma.
Firstly, if there is a government subsidy available for the airline to access when payloads are below break even costs to run the aircraft, then the airline should run the regular service barring genuine weather concerns and mechanical and/or technical problems to the aircraft. Unfortunately being the only domestic service provider the airline will be inclined to service routes that are profitable. These are routes servicing the tourist belt in the west and other short haul services within Fiji.
Secondly, I am amazed that the airline can book and confirm 12 passengers on a twin Otter to Rotuma, especially as I understand Rotuma does not have facilities to refuel the aircraft. Where I currently work in PNG we have a weekly charter service on a twin Otter aircraft (same type of aircraft servicing Rotuma) for a 1 hour and 50 minutes flight and the most the aircraft can carry is 2 pilots and 8 passengers with limited cargo. This is due to weight restrictions such that the aircraft must have sufficient fuel to return to its departure destination in case of unfavourable weather conditions enroute and at the arrival destination. The airline would be irresponsible knowing that they cannot carry 12 passengers in any one sector and to accept paid fares for months in advance from prospective travellers.
Previous inquiries with Pacific Sun reveal a special charter will cost approximately $20,000FJD return trip with passenger numbers in the range of four to six each way plus freight. For normal air service to Rotuma a fare of $650 each way is not profitable given that a charter rate is set at $20,000FJD return trip. Even when weather conditions are suitable for the aircraft to operate strong head winds may limit the carrying capacity of the aircraft to as low as four passengers each way; this may explain the withdrawal of services to Rotuma at very short notice due to weather or mechanical breakdowns. For a charter service the charge would have to be $1600 per person for a maximum of 12 people on the return sector to recover the cost of the charter.
Our prospective politicians and leaders of Rotuma need to lobby the government to find ways to upgrade the airstrip in Rotuma so bigger aircraft can service the island without limiting the number of passengers the aircraft can carry. Whilst this service can be weekly or fortnightly it will guarantee the airline a profit and travellers would be happy.
PNG is a country solely dependent on air and sea transport to service the entire country and I must say you have not seen the chaos when air services are withdrawn at short notice. The current airfare to and from Rotuma, and the type of aircraft being used on the route, makes you wonder how long before Pacific Sun withdraws the service or worse still, that the status quo remains, with cancelled flights at short notice and disgruntled passengers each time a flight is scheduled for Rotuma.
This was our first visit to Rotuma to see family and we were travelling
We arrived at Nadi airport at 5am (for a 7am flight) to a sign stating
We queried the attendee but he didn't know the reason for the
We waited for over four hours before the reason, "bad weather", was given
Other passengers to Rotuma said they were from the previous Friday
The cancellation of our flight meant we would be stranded in Nadi for the
We asked if there was anything they could do to at least support our
This was a gut-wrenching and bitterly disappointing event as our family
A significant amount of money, time and emotion was invested into this
We have travelled to over 27 different countries and this has been our
The service to Rotuma is utterly unreliable. We couldn't even plan for a
Rotumans contribute significantly to the economic development of Fiji
We pay premium fares over $1200 per person return for an unreliable
F and L Stowers
If there is no government subsidy then one will expect the operator to constantly cancel services when payloads are below profitable margins and the weather and technical excuses will be given. The problem airlines face to operate the service to Rotuma is due mainly to CAA regulations that requires the aircraft to carry sufficient fuel for the return trip and for any emergency that requires the aircraft to be in the air. My experience in PNG where we use the twin otter aircraft the same type that service Rotuma is that the number of passengers per leg is limited to 8. At ($680fjd) each way the airline will not break even to run at half that maximum number both ways. If there is no government subsidy than you will expect the operator to cancel services when it looks like it will run at a loss. That is fact unless you can afford to charter the aircraft for a return trip to Rotuma for around $20,000fjd. Even still the airline will tell you they can only carry maximum payload allowed by CAA which depends on weather and other factors. Make it worse your charter may only be for four passengers with some cargo both ways to Rotuma.
When the cancellation is due to weather or technical problems if it be the case the poor passenger will have no recourse for compensation other than a full refund of the airfare.
It may pay for our council and potential future politicians to lobby government to fix the runway in Rotuma so the ATR 42 can service Rotuma to ease the cost of flying and at least some much needed cargo freighting to the island. If a government subsidy is available for the airline than the operator should honour and service the route to Rotuma. I do not think the weather is an issue to prevent service to Rotuma for weeks or even months.
The most reliable service that Rotuma needs is a multipurpose vessel that can get to Rotuma from Lautoka within 24-30hrs with a capability to utilise wind propulsion to reduce the cost of fuel. This will require the Council of Rotuma, the communities abroad and the expertise of various people to set up a workable business venture.
From Fuata Jione Gulf of Papua PNG
It is with great disappointment to be travelling to the island on a small plane paying big money. Well, we have ourselves to blame because our leaders do not see the reality so we all get penalised. We have the option of getting Northern Airline to service our route but again our leaders are asleep. Wake up and look around you there is so much to fix. We need to vacate the council and allow them to only represent the village and an educated team to lead us now.
From Michael Crocker