Air Niugini chief executive officer Simon Foo announced his retirement yesterday after more than 40 years with the national carrier.
He started off as trainee traffic officer at Rabaul in 1971 for Trans Australia Airways and was promoted to supervisor when the company came under Air Niugini in 1973.
Foo told The National that he was confident the airline would soar while he would try to spend more time with his five bubus (grandchildren).
“There have been many highlights but one of the biggest thrills for me was the opportunity to live and work around PNG and overseas,” he said
Foo said the airline had a critical role in the country through developments at Jackson Airport as the regional hub.
“I would hope, following what the Government wants to do, is that we become a better shareholder and be privatised so that the airline is run as a full business,” he said.
“Then we can take advantage of numerous opportunities, especially our geographical position between Asia and the Pacific and making the airline grow and support the nation’s growth as well.”
Foo said he would spend his retirement back in his home province of East New Britain and expressed his gratitude in serving the people of PNG.
“I will go back to Kokopo, my hometown, and contribute to the development of East New Britain while also slowing down from work as an executive to spend more time with my children and bubus,” he said.
“We are the national airline and we work very hard to deliver the service that the people of PNG deserve and sometimes we may not reach that level and we ask your forgiveness.
“However, the heart of the airline is the people and we will eventually deliver the best service that our people deserve as PNG’s national carrier.”
Foo will be succeeded by Tahawar Durrani as the acting chief executive officer.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has praised the 138-room residential complex for Air Niugini staff as a “decent accommodation” of “international standard”.
The complex at Jackson Airport in Port Moresby cost the national airline more than K100 million (US$31 million) to build, and expects to save K18 million (US$5.6 million) annually in staff accommodation costs.
O’Neill praised the airline which, despite facing difficulties, is making the effort to lift the standard of its services and the employment conditions for its staff.
“Air Niugini is a very big company employing thousands of people. Staff is one of the major strengths of any company,” O’Neill said.
“I know the airline has been operating under a very difficult environment.
“It is a very competitive industry, very low margins. But we can be proud that after more than 40 years, it continues to operate in a financially sound manner and provide the link between many of our communities throughout the country.
“I’m pleased to see the airline has continued to grow. We have seen positive changes. And the airline is competitive in the region. The industry plays an important role promoting tourism.”
He said the new complex would “benefit Air Niugini and of course provide staff with decent accommodation of international standard”.
Air Niugini Chairman Sir Frederick Reiher said like other sectors, the airline endured tough times.
“The complex is an important component of our package to remain competitive and viable in tough times,” he said.
“This year, we have seen an upturn in passenger numbers partly driven by our important role as the official APEC airline.
“We have worked hard to ensure our business clients and the travelling public can continue to have affordable air travel.”
Sir Frederick reiterated the problem the airline faced as regards the shortage of pilots.
“There is a regional and worldwide shortage of pilots. We are not immune to that because our pilots are highly skilled and in demand,” he said.
“We are responding to that by reviewing our pilots’ conditions in order to be competitive as much as possible within,” he said…..
(Source: Papua New Guinea Today April 2018)