Photo © Peter J Gates
Photo © Steve King
However, sometime in 2000 the airline fell foul of regulations regarding the operations of the aircraft, and it ceased jet services, instead codesharing with Air New Zealand, Air Pacific and Polynesian Airlines. They did however maintain services in the islands, with a Shorts 360 and a DHC-6.
Now, they plan to resume jet services, this time with a 757-200 leased from Royal Brunei Airlines. The period of the lease is 5 years, initially as a wet lease, but later with the intention of using Tongan crew. TBU-AKL (Tongatapu - Auckland) services will commence 25th November, operating six times weekly (no Sunday flight - probably due to the very religious nature of the Tongan community), with once weekly extensions to Sydney and Honolulu.
I must say it is nice to see this carrier having a change of fortunes - hopefully this venture will be a success. I was reading in the Sun-Herald this morning, and there was an article in the travel section about Tonga - it definitely appears to be a place that has a lot of potential as a remote, unspoiled tropical paradise.
For more information on Royal Tongan Airlines, check out: http://www.flyroyaltongan.com/
P.S. - Can 'Tonga', 'Tongan' and 'Brunei' please be added to the spell checker?