The Pacific Island leaders received a traditional welcome at the Rarotonga International Airport early on Monday. MELINA ETCHES/23110626
The inaugural Fiji Airways charter flight from Nadi to Rarotonga touched down at Rarotonga International Airport at midnight on Sunday, with nine Pacific leaders and their delegations arriving for the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting.
Pacific leaders – including two prime ministers and five presidents – and their
delegations received a traditional welcome at Rarotonga International Airport
early on Monday.
Minister of Samoa Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka,
President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands David Kabua, President of
Nauru David Adeang, President of Federated States of Micronesia Wesley Simina,
President of Kiribati Taneti Maamau, President of Wallis and Futuna Munipoese
Muli’aka’ak, Vanuatu’s Minister for Climate Change Adaptation Ralph Regenvanu,
and Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade Jeremiah
Manele arrived on the inaugural flight.
the leaders were received by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI)
staff and Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaitau. They received a special
gate-side event that included live music and entertainment, a traditional
blessing and prayer, and special remarks from Tapaitau and Cook Islands High
Commissioner to New Zealand, Kairangi Samuela.
Prime Minister Rabuka also took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the
arrival of the inaugural charter flight.
The visitors received a special gate-side event that included live music and entertainment from the pictured dancers. MELINA ETCHES/23110612
Fiji Airways staff member Naitini Waqa, who now works at a hotel in Rarotonga,
hopes the inaugural flight will not be a one-off.
would be really good to at least have a direct flight every once a month,” Waqa
said. “It will benefit Fijians to travel home and visit their loved ones and
families, and to visit Rarotonga. It will also be good for our Cook Islands
family to get a chance to see Fiji.”
Fijians residing in Rarotonga turned up in numbers to welcome their Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka. MELINA ETCHES/ 23110620
Islands News staff member Natasha Datt was on board the flight on its return
leg to Nadi, Fiji, around 1:30am on Monday.
said the flight saved her time and the need to apply for a transit visa to
travel through New Zealand.
congratulated Fiji Airways for their service and thanked the Cook Islands
Government for the direct charter flight to and from Fiji.