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2 Aug 2008

Austasia launches Singapore, E. Timor flight

Direct flights between Singapore and the East Timorese capital of Dili have been launched for the first time, Kyodo quoted the Singapore Transport Ministry as saying Friday.

Australian-owned Austasia Airlines, which is based in the western Australian city of Perth, officially launched the services from Singapore to Dili on Friday, ferrying East Timorese President Ramos Horta.

The company will operate the flights by utilizing the aircraft and crew of SilkAir, the sister regional airline of Singapore Airlines, officials said.

The nearly four-hour flight, currently operating twice a week, will be raised to three times a week from November, the airline said on its website.

The two countries currently do not have an air services agreement, but both sides have agreed to allow the flights to be introduced by the Australian company, which had expressed an interest.

East Timor is still struggling to achieve stability after winning independence from Indonesia in 2002.

Industry observers say much of the current demand for flights to Dili is largely from aid and other humanitarian relief workers. The introduction of flights between Dili and Singapore, a major air transit and business hub in Asia, could reflect rising commercial interest in East Timor and provide an alternative route for foreigners planning to visit Dili.

The main air routes to Dili currently are from Darwin in northern Australia and Denpasar on Indonesia's Bali Island.




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