SOLOMON Airlines on Thursday announced that it will be re-entering the Fiji market with services to commence from 24 January 2015 based on its previous approved operation from Honiara via Port Vila to Nadi each Saturday and returning on Sunday.
A Solomon Airlines spokesman said in the airline’s opinion, 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.
“From our point of view, this is an agreement between the two Governments.
“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.
“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.”
Under the current agreement, the spokesman continued, 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,” he said.
“In addition to this, given Fiji Airways enjoys fifth freedom rights beyond Honiara to Port Moresby and vice-versa, Solomon Airlines have also sought similar rights to operate beyond Nadi to a further destination but to no avail.
“We currently have nothing beyond Nadi and 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.
“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.
“At the next meeting of the Air Services Agreement, our position will remain unchanged and we will continue to seek fifth and sixth freedom rights beyond Port Vila and a point beyond Nadi.
“We will also seek to further impress to the authorities that two services on one day on the marginal Nadi-Honiara route are not be good, neither the travelling public or the economics of both airlines.
“There are other issues on hand that need to be resolved, however we have made the call to get on with the service based on the executed agreement just signed.
“But as the situation stands today, in our opinion, nothing has changed.”