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Fiji Time: 12:14 AM on Tuesday 23 September

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Aviation deal fallout

Repeka Nasiko
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SOLOMON Airlines code-sharing flights to Fiji operated through Air Niugini has been suspended.

The airline was informed of the suspension by permanent secretary for Civil Aviation Sharvada Sharma in a letter last week.

Mr Sharma said "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".

Responding to the suspension, Solomon Airlines CEO Captain Ron Sumsum said the Fiji Government action flew in the face of the Solomon Airlines and 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," he 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.

"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."

He said Fiji had the opportunity to code-share with Air Niugini from Nadi to Port Moresby but 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."

Meanwhile, Fiji Airways CEO and managing director Stefan Pichler said while the company did not address third party releases, Solomon Airlines' statement regarding Fiji Airways were simply untrue.

"Fiji Airways has always maintained that we prefer to deal through dialogue with all stakeholders, not through public statements Banning or suspensions of flights into countries are the prerogative of the governments, not airlines," Mr Pichler said.

"Therefore, the key to resolving the issue between the governments of Fiji and Solomon Islands is in the hands of the Solomon Islands Government.

"Fiji Airways is a fully commercially driven entity and we have adapted to the new situation. Fortunately for us, there is no financial downside deriving from the current suspensions.

"Finally, how we choose to use our code-share options with other airlines is only subject to our commercial interests."

He added Solomon Islands citizens in Fiji had the option to travel to their country through Port Vila or Brisbane.

Questions sent to the Aviation's Minister's office last week remained unanswered.


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