Subject: LUSA: QANTAS to Cancel Flights Between Darwin and Dili

East Timor: QANTAS to Cancel Flights Between Darwin and Dili 10 Jan-18:47

The Australian airline QANTAS plans to cancel its current flight service linking the cities of Darwin in northern Australia and the East Timorese capital Dili, as the route is apparently no longer commercially viable.

A QANTAS spokesman in Sydney confirmed to Lusa Wednesday that the decision was made after an evaluation of service on the route, which began in May 2000. At first, two daily flights were offered four days a week; this was subsequently increased to two daily flights seven days a week.

"Service will be suspended from Feb. 1. There had initially been demand from Australian businessmen who wanted to travel to East Timor, but this demand volume has dropped and no longer corresponds to expectations", the spokesman said, adding that the decision to end service was taken for "purely commercial reasons".

QANTAS is currently negotiating with Air North, the only other Australian company that flies to East Timor, the spokesman said.

Air North, which is a sister company of Ansett, Australia's second biggest airline, expects to increase flights to Dili by 50 percent.

Air North director Michael Bridge said plans called for his airline to operate 19 weekly flights to Dili, despite the view that such service is a "short-term project". His airline began flying to East Timor in Sept. 1999, when it was hired by the UN to establish an air bridge linking Darwin and Dili.

The only other airline that flies to Dili is the Indonesian carrier Merpati, with links to the city of Denpasar on the island of Bali - the same service it offered before the Indonesian occupation of East timor [sic] ended in the autumn of 1999.

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