Agents evade Fiji coup while Australian carriers carry on(2)

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Travel and tour operators feared stranded in Fiji following the attempted coup and hostage drama appear to have left safely, according to airlines and officials in New Zealand.

Fiji's annual international travel trade show, Bula, finished last Thursday. When the coup drama began on Friday and a nationwide state of emergency was declared, there were believed to be around 50 operators still in the country.

But it appears the attempted coup has not interrupted international departures and arrivals. Allister Paterson, general manager commercial for Air New Zealand, said no scheduled flights had been effected.

"On Friday, we had our eye on it very carefully. Two flights in and out of Nadi took place, with no problems." Flights had since gone to schedule, he said.

The hostage drama and widespread looting appear to be centred around Suva, whereas international flights leave from Nadi, on a different island. TravelWeekly East spoke to several UK agents who had left Fiji on Friday afternoon, and experienced no impact apart from hearing the announcement on the airport radio.

Australian carriers Qantas and Ansett are continuing to moniter the situation in Fiji. The airlines have maintained services to Fiji ex Sydney and Brisbane following consultations with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Australia has no plans to evacuate its citizens from Fiji.

Ansett is continuing to offer options to customers who wish to cancel their Fiji travel plans. These include the chance to defer their travel without penalty, or cancel their booking and receive a full refund, or transfer their flight to another destination on the Ansett network.

Bula is the first of three Pacific events taking place this month. Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand (TRENZ) is currently taking place in Christchurch, New Zealand, and will be followed by ATE in Sydney. TRENZ officials reported no cancellations from agents at Bula.

Paterson hopes the current hostage situation does not have the same effect as in the past.

"Fiji had a coup in 1987 and it took a while to come back from that. But in that one, the military and police were involved. This one it appears, it's a bit more of a renegade force - our guess is that it won't be anywhere near as dramatic, and we hope we're right."

The latest coup took place on the one-year anniversary of the country's new democratically elected government.

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