Kiritimati was originally named Christmas Island by Capt. James Cook who discovered it on Dec 24th 1777. The island is part of the Republic of Kiribati which consists of three groups of islands in the central pacific - the Gilberts (Kiribati) group, the Phoenix Group and the Line Islands (where Christmas Island is located).
The main airport is Cassidy Airfield which was originally built by the British who occupied the island until the country's independence in 1979. I believe that the US also operated on the island during WWII. During the 50's and 60's the island was used for some questionable bomb testing. There are a couple of other abandoned strips on the island that were built during WWII but they are clearly not usable today.
Air service to CXI has been spotty at best over the years. During the late 70's and early 80's when I lived in Kiribati (on Tarawa though) the local airline (Air Tungaru at the time) chartered a jet from Air Nauru to run service to the island (TRW-CXI-HNL
and return). Later on Air Tungaru managed to get their own 727 for the flight but eventually they disappeared. Since then the government of Kiribati has arranged charters from HNL
to handle air service to CXI. AQ
was the most recent airline from which jets were chartered for the service.
My guess is that the government of Kiribati may be subsidizing Air Pacific to do the flight in order to keep some essential air service going to Christmas Island.
Words like Kiribati and Kiritimati are just the local spellings/pronunciations for western names like 'Gilberts' and 'Christmas'. They only use 16 Latin characters so 'K' is used for 'c' and 'g' sounds, 'R' for 'l', 'TI
' for 's', etc. Say Gilberts really fast a few times and it'll start sounding like 'kiribas'.
An excellent reference for Kiribati and the various islands in the area is Jane's Kiribati Homepage - http://www.janeresture.com/kirihome/index.htm
Hope this info helps answer some questions,