Under a new agreement signed between the Solomon Islands and Fijian governments this week, Solomon Airlines will resume flights into Fiji from January 24, 2015, and Fiji Airways will recommence its services into Honiara from February 3, 2015.
The two governments resolved the air row between both countries, lifting the suspension of air services between the two, and allowing the designated airlines to resume air services.
It has been agreed that Solomon Airlines will operate one weekly flight between Honiara and Nadi, departing Honiara on Saturday and departing Nadi on Sunday.
Fiji Airways will operate one weekly direct flight between Nadi and Honiara, and one weekly flight departing Nadi and Honiara via Port Vila with full fifth freedom rights between Port Vila and Honiara.
“The impasse resolution in tandem with the new government announcing its intention to push the tourism agenda even harder bodes well as we move into 2015 and particularly from the US market which we view as potentially one of our strongest source markets going forward.”Josefa Tuamoto
CEO, Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau
The Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) has welcomed the decision by both governments to end the impasse between the two countries airlines which has been in place since last July.
Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau CEO, Josefa Tuamoto said the impasse has impacted strongly on international visitor arrivals, with several resorts and operators from the US market advising cancellations.
“The impasse resolution in tandem with the new government announcing its intention to push the tourism agenda even harder bodes well as we move into 2015 and particularly from the US market which we view as potentially one of our strongest source markets going forward,” he said.
Both countries have agreed that air services between the two countries will continue to run in accordance with the 1990 Air Services Agreement and a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding currently in place between the two countries.
Any additional flights between the two countries will have to fit in line with the two agreements which currently indicate Solomon Airlines and Fiji Airways as the only designated airlines.
“Despite the negatives across 2014, we have been hard at work establishing a platform, we have an agenda in place intended to see us achieve cut through across 2015,” added Tuamoto.
Despite the governments agreement to resurrect flights, Solomon Airlines officials say little has changed since the service suspension and while an agreement has been reached between the governments of Fiji and the Solomon Islands, nothing has been achieved from the perspective of fairness and equality which was the basis for the impasse in the first place.
“While Solomon Airlines has been allowed to resume flights into Fiji as of 24 January, the reality is that all we are doing is continuing to operate without fifth or sixth freedom rights on a Honiara-Port Vila-Nadi basis with the issue being rights between Port Vila and Nadi," the spokesman said.
“Fiji Airways on the other hand is being allowed to operate with full fifth and sixth freedom rights. Fiji Airways enjoys the right to operate into Honiara via Port Vila, embarking and disembarking passengers on the whole route while we do not have rights from Port Vila-Nadi and vice versa,” he added.
Under the current agreement, Fiji Airways also has the rights to operate into Honiara with a second direct return service each Saturday. “Given Solomon Airlines has been already been operating an Airbus A320 service on the route on the same day, the introduction of the Fiji Airways service had created a situation whereby we have over capacity on the route on a same day basis whereas the rest of the week is unutilised and another flight day could have been selected,” said the spokesman.
“We want the same fairness and equality to apply to both sides and for Solomon Airlines to be able to operate services to a point beyond. From our point of view, this is an agreement between the two Governments. We are obviously not happy with this result as it stands but have agreed to honour the joint governments’ agreement and we are hoping that further discussions in late January/early February will prevail and our sentiments will be heard," he concluded.