Subject: Australian Co Starts Darwin-Dili Commercial Air Service

Dow Jones Newswires January 17, 2000

Australian Co Starts Darwin-Dili Commercial Air Service

CANBERRA -- A privately-owned Australian company, Airnorth Regional Pty Ltd., will Tuesday begin the first commercial airline service between the northern Australian city of Darwin and Dili, the capital of East Timor.

Andrea Mitchell, a company spokeswoman, said the airline plans 11 return flights a week from Darwin using a 19 seat aircraft, but will upgrade to a 28 seat aircraft if necessary.

Airnorth, which has been flying for 21 years from its base in Darwin, is owned by three local businessmen, she said.

The airline has previously been flying aid workers to Dili under contract to the United Nations' world food program.

This contract ends Tuesday and the airline has upgraded its service to regular passenger travel, she said.

Demand at this stage still comes from aid workers, contractors and U.N. staff, with little interest yet from tourists, she said.

East Timor is still rebuilding after being ransacked by local militia and the Indonesian military in the wake of the Aug. 30 vote for independence from Indonesia.

Airnorth is the only commercial passenger service between the two destinations.

A full economy return fare now costs A$700, but she said the airline will start offering from March 1 a range of advance purchase tickets that will cut the return fare to as low as A$400.

-By Ray Brindal; 612-6208-0902;

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