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New air link between Cook Islands and Niue

Wednesday 12 January 2022 | Written by Sian Solomon | Published in National, Travel

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New air link between Cook Islands and Niue

An air link between Niue and the Cook Islands is expected to happen before June this year.

Air Rarotonga’s managing director Ewan Smith could not confirm exactly when but said it is “likely” to happen before June, and will operate as charter flights once the borders re-open.

Smith said a number of private groups have shown interest in Niue trips, with charter group packages including accommodation on offer.

He said some places would be made available to the public but did not say how much it would cost.

“These will be charter groups on packages including accommodation in Niue, Smith said.

“Some places will be offered to the public.”

Unlike commercial flights, private charters or flights provide customers and groups the flexibility to travel around in style, with the convenience of customising their own special itinerary.

Smith said that Air Rarotonga will operate its own fleet to Niue.

The airline’s operating fleet consists of the Cessna Citation II model 550 pacific private jet which carries up to six passengers comfortably, while the Saab 340B+ can carry groups of up to 26 passengers.

At present, the border with Niue is closed due to the pandemic, with exceptions in place only for children, spouses, and other dependents of Niue residents, as well as for diplomats and essential workers.

According to a report by RNZ, the island is not expected to open to tourists for several months.

Image/AIR RAROTONGA.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, charter operators around the world have reported a significant uptick in demand and surge in business after customers were left with minimal options once commercial flights were decimated by lockdowns and border closures.

The Australian Aviation Authority reported over 3.44 million Australian passengers relied on a chartered aircraft and travelled between June 2020 and June 2021, highlighting a massive 22.6 per cent increase in charter demand and a 35.5 per cent increase in demand from June 2019.

In New Zealand, a number of businesses say they have also seen more interest from Kiwis wanting secluded travel and looking to charter private flights.  

With seats on commercial flights such a rare commodity, people are turning to the more expensive option, looking for safety and efficient travel.

Smith said that there are gains to be made from charter flights given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on commercial travel.

“We are seeing increased interest in travel around the Pacific Island region arising from long haul travel restrictions which are likely to influence travel choices from New Zealand and Australia for some time.”