WHILE the Fijian Government has maintained its position on the airline dispute with the Solomon Islands, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands (CAASI) says the issue stemmed from a request for a new slot for Fiji Airways to fly direct from Nadi to Honiara on Saturdays.
CAASI director George Satu told this newspaper he refused the request according to the Air Services Agreement (ASA) article 5 (1) and article 8 (1)(2), which bordered on the withdrawal or limitation of rights and principles governing operation of agreed services respectively.
“I have yet to approve the route for Saturdays because this is a new one altogether. The Solomon Islands Government did not ban Fiji Airways’ approved Tuesday schedule. It’s the new slot for Saturday that I denied, referring to Article 8 (1) of the ASA signed on July 10, 1990,” he said from the Solomon Islands.
“There is no ban. It is a suspension of what the Fiji Attorney-General does. He suspended Solomon Airlines flight into Nadi. There is very little impact to Solomon Airlines.
“Solomon Islands gave the Fijian Government (for Fiji Airways) fifth freedom rights to pick passengers from Port Vila to Honiara and vice versa, and even beyond Honiara to Port Moresby.
“The Fijian Government never reciprocated our goodwill to Fiji on the traffic rights.
“There is very little consultation from the Fiji Aviation Ministry with us in regards to changes to the rules or memorandum of understanding to the ASA.”
In a statement on Monday, Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said government was waiting for contact from the Solomon Islands Government to resolve the airline dispute so that normal flight schedule could resume.
“Fiji’s position has remained consistent and that responsibility for the dispute rested with the Solomons Government.”
Meanwhile, Mr Satu said they were willing to hold discussions to break the impasse but the onus was on Fiji to make the move.
“It’s up to Fiji because Solomon Islands has requested to hold discussions in Fiji on numerous occasions but that could not happen and the reason is only known to the Fiji authorities,” he said.
Suva (Fiji Times)