Airline seat capacity between the two island nations is expected to increase following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) yesterday.

According to Fijilive, the MOU 'will allow the extension of the route schedule provisions of the ASA (air services agreement) to include Vavau as the second point in Tonga for Fiji's designated airline and Nausori as second point in Fiji for Tonga's designated airline'.

Fijilive reports that Fiji's Civil Aviation Minister, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, 'noted
that in recent past traffic demand to Tonga had increased steadily' and thus, 'Fiji's national carrier (Air Pacific) sought to increase the seat capacity on the route Fiji/Tonga'.

'"This has been factored into the agreement reached by the two states in March 2008 to
increase the seat capacity from 350 to 1000 per week with no restrictions to aircraft
types or frequencies and both countries had agreed to this," Ratu Epeli said'.

Tonga's Transport Minister, Paul Karalus, 'explained that traffic
between the two countries has increased in recent years for several reasons' namely, 'there was a lot of regional traffic between Fiji-Tonga which related to the
regional organizations (in Fiji), the University of the South Pacific was located
(in Fiji), and there was a lot of student travel. Plus there was quite a large Tongan
population in Fiji and finally, the on flow of tourists who came through Fiji to Tonga (for water sports in Vavau)'.

'"But what perhaps has inhibited that somewhat is the need to have to go through from Nadi to Tongatapu and then on to Vavau. So the capability that your carrier has here now to fly directly from Nadi to Vavau we hope will enhance the numbers even further," Minister Karalus said'.

The article adds that 'further included in the MOU is 5th freedom traffic right for the designated airline for Tonga beyond Nadi and Nausori to Australia' and 'in the spirit of reciprocity the Tongan Government has agreed to the 5th Freedom traffic right beyond Fua'amotu and Vavau to New Zealand for the designated airline for Fiji'.