Owner of a very old fleet of aircraft, Air Niugini, of Papua New Guinea, should receive its first 737 Max this year, however, the company announced an update in its contract that postponed the delivery of the Boeing jet to at least 2024. The airline ordered four aircraft years ago and expected two of them to be delivered in 2020.
Even with the problems with the grounding of the 737 Max, the extension sounds strange after all the airline needs to modernize its fleet as soon as possible. However, the initiative seems to be a reflection of the imminent joint venture between Boeing and Embraer.
In an interview with Reuters last week, the company’s CEO, Alan Milne, admitted that the revision in the plans may involve replacing the 737 Max with Embraer’s E2 aircraft, as long as the agreement is approved by authorities in several countries. The European Commission that analyzes the joint venture has asked for more time to announce a decision. Previously scheduled for March, the verdict is expected to be revealed in late May, further delaying the plans of the two manufacturers.
Air Niugini’s interest in Embraer jets was already known. In July of last year, Alan Milne had declared that the E195-E2 would be a good option to replace his old Fokker fleet when the Brazilian aircraft made a stopover in Port Moresby on his tour of Asia and the Pacific.
Air Niugini was founded in 1973 by the country’s government in association with Australian airlines Qantas and Ansett. The company currently has a fleet of 20 aircraft, 15 of them Fokker 70 and 100 with more than 24 years of use. The company also has two 737 and two 767-300 that are expected to be taken out of service soon.
Recently, Air Niugini lost two planes in unusual situations. In September 2018, a 737-800 ended up sinking in a lake near Chuuk airport after an unsuccessful landing. One occupant died while six other passengers were seriously injured.
Months earlier, the regional company Link PNG, owned by Air Niugini, lost a Dash 8-Q200 turboprop set on fire by protesters who invaded the runway at Mendi airport in the Southern Highlands province during protests against the local government.