“It feels so good to be connected again.” This was the sentiment at Majuro airport on Sunday evening as the first regular flight from Brisbane arrived following opening of the borders last month. Passengers landed with big smiles as they were greeted with warm Marshallese hospitality.
In partnership with Nauru Airlines, the Australian government is supporting “the Australia-North Pacific Connector” — an every-two-week flight route between Brisbane, Nauru, Tarawa, Majuro and Pohnpei. Nauru Airlines was operating a similar route on a weekly basis prior to Covid and halted the service in March 2020.
The Australian government will help financially support the route, if needed, during the initial re-establishment phase.
“Connectivity is critical in the Pacific,” said Ambassador Brek Batley, who was at the airport Sunday in no small part to welcome his mother, Christine Batley, making her first visit to the Marshall Islands. “This is about bringing our peoples together and rejoining families. But it’s also about creating opportunities, whether in tourism, trade, or services like education. Let’s see if we can get more Australian fruit or lamb regularly on the shelves in the supermarkets? And we’ll continue to explore how this flight route might support Marshall Islands’ fish exports or the movement of workers into or out of RMI. We must work creatively together which will help regional economic growth.”
The Office of Commerce, Investment and Tourism (OCIT) and the Australian Embassy laid out a red carpet welcome for the passengers and crew on the Nauru Airlines flight. They lined up many of the Miss Marshall Islands contestants to join in the welcome gathering that featured leis and fresh coconuts for the arrivals.
Australia’s Pacific Flights Program has supported over 450 flights in the Pacific during the Covid-19 pandemic, across 14 routes and 10 countries. This has helped to keep communities connected, maintain supply chains, and deliver critical medicines, said the ambassador. The program also supports key flight routes to be re-established, reducing financial risk for airlines in the initial phase.
“We’re talking to OCIT in Majuro on small steps that might see more Australian tourists returning to these beautiful shores,” Batley said. “Every Australian that visits here, or every Marshallese that visits Brisbane, is one more thread weaved into our joint ‘Jaki ed’. As both of our Foreign Ministers Penny Wong and Kitlang Kabua said, strengthening people-to-people ties is so important to deepen our relationship even further.”
Nauru Airlines next flight arrives October 30.
More information on the Pacific Flights Program: https://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/pacific/partnering-with-our-pacific-family-to-build-covid19-resilience
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