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Airport shutdown poses risk for tourism and hospitality industry for Madang

The Madang Chamber of Commerce and the Madang Tourist Industry Association are gravely concerned about the planned three weeks shut down of the Madang airport. The proposed shutdown by the National Airports Corporation is due to the maintenance of the runways.

President of the Madang Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Murray says the closure will have a stern effect on the travel and hospitality industry in the province.

NAC had advised the Madang Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Industry Association of its plans to shut down Madang airport from 23rd July to 8th August.

This is to allow for the work on the full length of the Madang Aerodrome to be completed before the public can utilise the full services of the airport.

But President of the Madang Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Murray, says a total closure of the airport for 2 weeks or more is detrimental for a tourism province like Madang.

Madang has five major hotels and a number of large guest houses including businesses that depend on customers who fly into the province.

He added that partial closure of the runway has already affected businesses.

Business houses rely on the shipment of cargo in and out of Madang via TNT and DHL but these will be severely affected.  Murray adds if the upgrading work is behind schedule the two weeks shutdown is unlikely to make a difference.

The Acting Chairman of the Madang Tourist Industry Association Sir Peter Barter in a media statement says the closure would prevent any Air Niugini or Airlines of PNG aircraft from landing.

The only aircraft able to land would be restricted to a twin otter or smaller aircraft or helicopter.

But the capacity required and the cost of chartering aircraft to provide bridging flights to Lae would be expensive. Members of the Madang Tourist Industry Association that includes most hotels and businesses condemned the way NAC has handled the upgrading of the airport.

Adding the impact on the economy including the possible closure of hotels and other businesses that rely on Air transport.

 The National Airports Corporation Acting Managing Director Rex Kiponge, in a media statement, says they are currently undertaking construction works on eight of the airports in the country including Madang.

Kiponge says NAC these works are intended to give a facelift and improve the level of safety and security of these airports.

All in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization standards and the PNG Civil Aviation Safety Authority rules and Regulations.

Adding the runway length available may only accommodate twin Otter and smaller aircraft types and NAC says this is unavoidable.

For Madang, under its Method of Works Plan, the reconstruction is currently progressing in stage 5 and is planned for completion on 22 July 2021 depending on weather conditions.

While work on stage 6 is planned to commence on 23rd July and during this time it is possible that the runway will be available for twin Otter and smaller aircraft operations.

Work on stage 7 is planned to start on the 14 of August and will take three weeks to complete in which only Dash 8, ATR, and small aircraft will be allowed.

The full runway length of 1570m is planned to be available on 31st October 2021 for F100, F70, and smaller aircraft operations.

NAC however strongly encourages that it is important to improve, maintain and follow safety measures at the airport.

Meanwhile, Air Niugini has also released a statement that due to the runway maintenance and upgrading works their flights to and from Madang and Wewak are being operated by Dash-8 Turboprop aircraft also Dash 8 aircraft have restrictions on the number of passengers they can uplift. Adding for the period between 23rd July and 13th August Air Niugini flights to Madang will be temporarily suspended.

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