Subject: Austasia launches direct flights between S'pore, Timor Leste

Austasia launches direct flights between S'pore, Timor Leste

By Ryan Huang, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 02 August 2008 2129 hrs

SINGAPORE: Good news for tourists and investors ­ there are now direct flights between Singapore and Timor Leste.

A new route by Austasia has made Singapore the third country ­ after Indonesia and Australia ­ with commercial flights to Timor Leste.

Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta was onboard the inaugural flight home on Friday.

The president said: "I view it as extremely important as enhancing our independence, because as everybody knows, we are very vulnerable, restricted to two flights ­ one to Bali, one to Darwin.

"I don't view the airline only for passengers but also for air cargo, so I believe it will be very profitable for the investors. With this airline, if and when we have fisheries, flowers, fruits, vegetables, we can also export them directly to Singapore."

The four-hour direct flight, which cuts the travelling time between Timor Leste and many other destinations by almost a day, was more than a year in the making.

One of the biggest challenges was to upgrade the airport in its capital, Dili ­ from repaving its runways to installing X-ray machines.

There will be two return flights a week, which will be increased to three in November.

Ed Turner, managing director of Austasia, said: "Timor Leste is one of the lucky countries to have enormous resources of oil and gas. In the future, when these resources are developed, so will this country and it will probably develop quite rapidly."

Investors share a similar view and have begun trickling in from countries like Singapore.

Timor Leste's tourism sector is also set to get a big boost with its enhanced accessibility, attracting diving enthusiasts from as far as Europe.

- CNA/so

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