National Carrier Solomon Airlines has strongly condemned the action of the Fijian Office of Civil Aviation for suspending its codeshare flight with Air Niugini.
This came after the airline’s current Honiara-Nadi code share flights operated by Air Niugini have been suspended last week forcing many passengers booked through Solomon Airlines to miss their flights.
Last week Solomon Airlines received a letter from the Fijian Office of Civil Aviation advising them about the suspension.
In the letter Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Civil Aviation, Sharvada Sharma, stated that “given the breach of the Air Services Agreement (ASA) and the suspension of services to Fiji by Solomon Airlines, any designated airline of the Solomon Islands will not be allowed to operate or sell services to Fiji from the Solomon Islands.”
In a strong response to this advice, Solomon Airlines CEO, Captain Ron Sumsum said the Fiji government action flew in the face of the Solomon Airlines/Fiji Airways agreement regarding landing rights for each airline into both countries meaning the landing slots were suspended.
“This now brings into question other matters pertaining to the ASA and the ability of both countries to resolve this matter,” Captain Sumsum said.
“Fiji Airways has fifth freedom rights from Honiara to Port Moresby but has never used these and we have kept completely to our agreement that Air Niugini will only carry 60 or so passengers per week in each direction.
“The Fiji government action questions the sustainability of further services operated by Air Niugini through Honiara to Fiji as it was conducive to operating more services from PNG to Fiji using Solomon Islands as a ‘bridging’ point to add revenues to this route.
“Fiji has continued to espouse needing a solution and agreement by ‘pulling out the big stick to belt us around the head’.
“All we have ever asked for was a partnership with a code-share and also fairness in the ASA with regard to Port Vila-Nadi flights for Solomon Airlines given Fiji Airways has Port Vila-Honiara rights.
“Fiji Airways has had every opportunity to code share with Air Niugini from Nadi to Port Moresby but has decided not to participate.
“Its approach to this entire situation can only be described as a ‘Bully Boy’ approach and one that we do not intend taking too lightly.
”The ripples emanating from this situation have the potential to impact greatly on Melanesian unity at a time when the solidarity and partnership forged within the Melanesian Spearhead membership have never been stronger and this in itself is extremely unfortunate.”