The impasse between Fiji and Solomon Islands governments can only be resolved through the intervention of the prime ministers of both countries, says Association of the South Pacific Airlines secretary-general George Faktaufon.
He said the impasse should not be allowed to continue because “the travelling public was suffering through no fault of theirs”.
“I personally believe the only way to resolve the dispute is for both prime ministers to talk and instruct their respective officials and the two national airlines to sit and discuss the dispute and come up with acceptable resolutions,” Faktaufon said.
“This is a time for good leadership.
“Unfortunately, the Pacific way of resolving disputes seems to be out of the window.”
Faktaufon said this was the first time in the South Pacific’s aviation history that airlines resorted to the total withdrawal of air services between two Pacific Island nations.
“It a real sad situation.”
The secretary-general also clarified the dispute was not discussed at the recent ASPA conference in Noumea, New Caledonia, at the request of the two airlines.
“The two airlines asked not to discuss the dispute at the ASPA conference held in Noumea last week because they claimed it was a dispute between the two States, which could only be resolved at government level, hence the reason ASPA did not discuss the issues.”
He said the association, however, urged both airlines to encourage their respective governments to resolve the impasse sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji’s position remained consistent and that responsibility for the dispute rested with Solomon Islands Government.
“After the Solomons Government banned two successive Fiji Airways flights from Nadi to Honiara in breach of our Air Services Agreement, the decision was made to suspend all Solomon Airlines flights until the matter is resolved,” he said in a government statement.
Sayed-Khaiyum said the suspension included selling seats on airlines designated by Solomon Islands as code-share partners.
“We regret the inconvenience to the travelling public but this action was triggered by Solomon Islands and the responsibility lies with Honiara to make the first move.”
SUVA, ( FIJI TIMES)