Tonga's only domestic airline secures overseas help

Tonga's government has secured help to revive the state-owned airline Lulutai, following the grounding of the airline's main aircraft.

At a media conference, Tonga's Prime Minister Hu'akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni announced Australia would provide technical and financial support for the airline.

Hu'akavameiliku also rebutted media criticism of Lulutai management.

He said management acted quickly when finding out the aircraft was in a state of disrepair.

"When the report came out, it was something we need to address on the plane, it was sent to the manufacturer, and they said the next day to ground the plane, we ground the plane.

There was no delay or anything like that for us to get as many passengers over, no, when we got the notification from the manufacturer to ground the plane, we grounded the plane immediately," he said.

The prime minister said we have a few interests and we are currently evaluating the technical and economic feasibility of it but at the same time, we have to act now so we can service Vava'u now.

Australia's High Commissioner Rachael Moore told local media in Nuku'alofa that Australia would provide financial support and help develop a business plan with Lulutai, although she did not provide an exact figure.

"The agreement we're talking about is addressing is more or less about addressing the issues now."

"We are very committed to this bilateral relationship, we know that Tonga has had a difficult couple of years and most of those challenges are beyond your control and we know how important this is to your recovery, aviation is a key part of that," she said.

"We have Fiji Airways coming in to provide assistance between now and June, but in the meantime we will work to ensure there are long-term sustainable solutions to your aviation sector."

Moore said we're also pleased with our talks in other sectors including the security sectors and our role together in Pacific Islands Forum and other forums.