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What’s (Air) Niu With You? A Review of Air Niugini

P2-PXV a 767-383/ER waiting for boarding at BNE's gate 85. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

P2-PXV, a 767-383ER waiting for boarding at BNE – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

So, you’re dumb enough to decide you want to go to Port Moresby on holiday? Well, first off, you are pretty dumb. Do you know how dangerous Port Moresby is? The American government clearly knows; they’re building a new fortress-embassy on the highway to the airport. This embassy construction site also houses all its workers behind three 20-foot high fences and a small contingent of Marines. Having said that, it is still safer than Lae! So, if you have to pick between the two…

It’s not an organized sort of crime, or resistance. It’s something more like a zombie movie. One target sees an opportunity and then, almost like a wave, the rest follows. From what I’ve seen, cricket bats are a popular weapon of late.

I suppose muggings and general mischief do take the edge off after the national pastime, chewing buai, was banned this year. Not that the other three activities were not popular before- they’re just all rather hard to do with a buai, and some mustard, turning your teeth and saliva bright red!

It is the most bizarre dichotomy, because at the same time, I have never met any people more welcoming, helpful, and friendly as the general Melanesians in the very same place.

 

The lie flat 2-1-2 Business Class Cabin featuring a consistent seat across all long haul aircraft. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

The lie flat 2-1-2 Business Class Cabin featuring a consistent seat across all long haul aircraft. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

I guess, you just have to remember strange things when in Moresby. Christmas/New Years is hold up season, so never drive alone. Don’t go out at night, just don’t. Remember that the roundabout by the J-Mart is the carjacking center of Moresby. Things like that. Also, sometimes the power goes out- but the backup generator’ll kick in sooner or later.

Enough about how stupid I am for going on a holiday in what some call the most dangerous city in the world. It’s not, not even close, but let them have their fun. You probably want to know how I got there, don’t you?

I started my voyage with Qantas. Which I can summarize very glibly. Horrendous on the ground, stunning in the air. Better than the other way around, true. I flew them from Sydney to Brisbane, aboard their newest, and last, 737-838 (VH-XZK). Full IFE (good IFE) and Boeing Sky Interior. I love QF, so I thought that they’d beat Air Nuigini (PX) – their partner airline on services from Eastern Australia to Port Moresby – hands down.

I was wrong!

Not wanting to spend $1,900 for a two-hour flight in business, I booked an economy fare for substantially less.  I had heard that PX economy was pretty dire. I had also been told business class was not that much better.

So, with low expectations, I hopped aboard P2-PXW to be blown away. I was not expecting what I saw.  Nor was I expecting it to be so premium-heavy.

A better view of the Air Niugini business class cabin . Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

A better view of the Air Niugini Business Class cabin – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I will admit the configuration is bizarre, but that is partially because of the fact that when SAS purchased the aircraft (to withdraw it in 2002) they chose to have an extremely large aft galley and lavatories down the side.

So strange is the configuration of cabin that the entire economy class is left with only two lavs adjacent to rows 12 and 13.  Furthermore, woe is the poor soul in the last business class seat. It may offer direct aisle access from two sides, but all it offers is a lovely view of two of the J lavs! Apparently, those feature blue LED lighting.

P2-PXW's economy cabin. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

P2-PXW’s economy cabin – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I was seated in row 8, which offers 70″ of seat pitch. No, I am not joking, there is just that much space between you and the bulkhead.

A decent illustration of the PX AVOD IFE unit. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

A decent illustration of the PX AVOD IFE unit – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

PX also uses an aftermarket, self-contained, IFE solution that is somewhat sparse in content. Having said that, PX’s longest 767 flight is to NRT (and lately it has been a leased 737-79L), so it is not as if passengers will be left wanting. The seats themselves appear brand-new, but are almost 100% refurbs.

One more general PX fact. P2-PXV, another Air Niugini 767, was also recently refurbished in China, but it has a different lav configuration.

I was coming into Moresby, intentionally, on a Friday afternoon to get a low seat factor. I didn’t expect it to be 40%. I was, therefore, surprised that the safety demo was delivered both manually and via the IFE.

The PX Economy service is, in all honesty, similar to a domestic business/first class level.

After takeoff, there was a drink service. I opted for a Sprite, my equally-crazy-and-stupid friend opted for a PNG-made Coke. I mention him as he will feature more in other articles, so I may as well drop that bombshell now. I actually have friends. Shocking, right?

A single tray lunch service for not even a three hour flight. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

A single tray lunch service for not even a three-hour flight – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

On the two-hour-and-fifty-minute flight, there is not much time to separate the services. So lunch started soon after.

The actual, unfoiled, hot item of the meal. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

The actual, unfoiled, hot item of the meal – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Lunch was, again, extremely high quality. Chicken with couscous and some carrots. It was more like business class catering, without the presentation, than standard economy fare. The chocolate cake desert after was also pretty great.

I spent the rest of the flight talking to the crew about what working for Ar Niugini was like, their fleet, and where they like to fly the most. PX crew are extremely motivated and proud of their airline. They are also proud of their country, but still would like some parts to change.

I then remembered that I should check out the lavs.

The lavatory counter in the right hand Y lav. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

The lavatory counter in the right-hand Y lav – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

They are, bizarrely, swanky. Again, I have seen business class lavs with much sparser fixtures.

Final approach into Port Moresby, Jacksons International Airport. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

Final approach into Port Moresby, Jacksons International Airport – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Landing at Jacksons International Airport (POM) was exciting. They only have one runway, and it is almost due north/south. It is situated in a valley, and routinely generates strong crosswinds. In our case, we were landing with a 12-knot one. Not exactly mindblowing, but enough to give you a good jolt when landing on the left main first.

Jacksons itself is basic. Very, very, basic. I will discuss that more later when I start to cover domestic flying. In the interim, I will close with the fact that tourist visas no longer cost 100 Keena. They are free!

The International Ramp of Port Moresby Jacksons Airport a few days after my arrival into PNG. Photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.co,

International ramp at Port Moresby Jacksons Airport after my arrival into PNG – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Lastly, I apologize for the photo quality – I wasn’t expecting the trip to be anything to write home about, so I had just used my iPhone for “facebook shots,” but I think that they do the job!

 Bernie Leighton – Managing Correspondent 

Bernie has traveled around the world to learn about, experience & photograph different types of planes. Bernie will go anywhere to fly on anything. He spent four years in Australia learning about how to run an airline, while putting his learning into practice by mileage running around the world. You can usually find Bernie in his natural habitat: an airport.

 @PowerToTheThird | Flickr

 

13 comments to What’s (Air) Niu With You? A Review of Air Niugini

  • Global Aerospace Design Corp was responsible for the interior upgrade on the aircraft you flew on and are currently performing the same mod on all the Air Niugini B737s.

    Feel free to contact me if you would like more information.

    Regards,

    Todd

    • Todd, I’ll second Bernie’s comments. I’m only viewing the pics, but that’s an impressive execution. We supply thermoplastics to the interiors business, so we are involved in a lot of interior upgrade work – I’m impressed and thought it worthy of mentioning. Kudos. -Ronn

  • Bernie Leighton

    Your company did an outstanding job! I’m excited to see more 737s with lie-flat J hopping across the Pacific.

    Keep up the good work,

    Bernie

  • Pasen Suitawa

    Judging from what I’ve just read, I guess this is your first trip to PNG. I can’t believe all the bullshit I read. PNG is a great country. It’s true we have our problems (what country doesn’t) but the crime rate is more or less similar to other countries in the world like Brisbane, Sydney, New York or London.

    The majority of people in PNG are great, wonderful, peace loving and very helpful. It’s just a handful who give PNG a bad name. There have been and there still are many expatriates who come to PNG and make it their home.

    You have concentrated your trip around Port Moresby/Lae but have you gone to places like Madang, Alotau, Kokopo, Manus, Kavieng etc… These towns are beautiful and you will have a great time there.

    Stop being the stereo-type who just says what he is told and go to the smaller towns, the villages and live with the simple people and experience the true PNG way and culture. Then and only then, you will see and appreciate MY country, Papua New Guinea.

    • Bernie Leighton

      I was actually in Rabaul, and it was one of the most amazing places I have ever been. I’d really love to go back. Goroka was also amazing, but if I were to go back to PNG- I’d probably go deeper into the Highlands to see some wildlife besides honey eaters and smaller birds native to New Britain.

      Moresby is an interesting situation, because once you are there- it is really just as safe as any major American city. There’s just a lot of hype that terrifies a lot of people.

      Having said that, I have heard a lot of stories from the ex-pat pilots I hang out with that made things sound a little more exciting than a lot of tourists would be comfortable with.

      Also, if I can be honest- the only real issue I had with Moresby is that sometimes there seemed to be a few “value for money” issues caused by the Real Estate Boom. That’s mostly with the hotels. Digicell is amazing, but $15/mb roaming is not great.

      As I tried to allude to in the actual column, I think that the whole Moresby/Lae situation is probably a case of the fact that no matter how hard working and friendly the majority of the population is- it only takes a few people to ruin a reputation. It’s not fair, and I try to look past it- but I’m only one huge fan of PNG.

      Sorry if I offended you, it really was not my intent.

  • Have US domestic first/business meals gotten that bad? It looks about like a coach domestic meal I’d have gotten roughly 10 years ago on Delta.

    • Bernie Leighton

      Looks sometimes don’t do food justice. I reckon if that was served to you in glassware with some finery, you would agree with me. Having said that, I’d greatly prefer “pile of delicious food” vs. “eye pleasing plating of garbage.”

      You are, somewhat, right- though. There are a lot of terrible domestic J meals out there these days, I wont name names but yeah- how the mighty have fallen.

  • gary

    I live in PNG – the 767 refit leaves alot to be desired in some areas -2 toilets only in economy – both mid cabin right next to passenger seats. I pity the person in those seats on 6 hour overnight flights. IFE is not gate to gate, they start it whenever the cabin supervisor feels like after seat belt sign is off (who knows why) and shut it down upon start of descent. Consequently on flights to Brisbane there is often not enough time to finish the movie. Overall service is generally very good as are the meals.

  • Cheryl

    I flew on PX 737-800 with the latest lie-flat business class interior from Brisbane to Moresby for the first time yesterday. I was so pleased with comfortable seat and friendly service. The people at Air Niugini are very professional and hard-working. If you have never flown on Air Niugini, you should definitely give it a try. It is far better than any airlines I have seen in the States.

    • Bernie Leighton

      Yeah, PX is outstanding. They really are one of the best Airlines in Australasia, they are just mostly stuck dealing with O&D pax because Jacksons is impossible to renovate.

  • Ian Mackintosh

    I have been flying with PX since 1979!
    My airline of choice as far as safety is concerned.
    Sometimes the 767′s have been showing their age but made up for by the in-flight and ground staff.
    Unfortunately I can’t say the same as far as their Brisbane sales staff are concerned – need a few lessons on how to respond to public enquiries both personal and by email.

    • Bernie Leighton

      I love PX!

      I do, however, agree with you about their sales staff! To book my tickets on them, I had to call their London sales office! It was a process which took a couple of days.

      I never understand why great companies sometimes make it so difficult for them to have money thrown at them.

  • Dear Bernie
    Sorry it has taken some months to find this article and subsequent posts , but I’m glad I did on two counts… (1) I’d like to add my endorsement about AIr Niugini being one of the best airlines to fly with in the region and (2) as the Manager of the Air Niugini London Sales office I’d like to send you my thanks for booking through us and hope that, whilst it took two days to complete the booking, everything was handled well by Sharon and the friendly PX reservations team here in London.

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