SUNBIZ

Fiji Was Right! Airline Impasse Now Resolved

Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was vindicated yesterday. After fruitful discussions in Suva the airline impasse between Fiji and Solomon Islands was ended. It came with Fiji
13 Jan 2015 09:57
Fiji Was Right! Airline Impasse Now Resolved
Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum wears the Solomon Islands’ well known shell money called Tafuliae (Malaita) or Kogana (Guadalcanal) gifted by Solomon Islands signifying ‘burying the hatchet’ and continuation of good relations. The shell money was presented by newly-appointed Solomons Minister for Foreign Affairs and acting Minister for Civil Aviation and Communications Milner Tozaka in Suva yesterday. Photo: RAMA

Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was vindicated yesterday.

After fruitful discussions in Suva the airline impasse between Fiji and Solomon Islands was ended.

It came with Fiji Airways getting the extra flight Nadi-Honiara-Nadi that Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had all along said it was entitled to.

Solomons authorities had blocked the flight, leading to a series of tit for tat moves. They culminated with neither Fiji Airways nor Solomon Airlines flying between the two countries.

What follows next is both governments intending to commence negotiations on reviewing the existing Air Service Agreement.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum thanked new Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs Minister and acting Minister for Communication and Aviation, Milner Tozaka, for his “fresh insight” and vision to see the impasse resolved.

“At the end the day we’re sticking to what the Air Service Agreement stipulates,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“We’ve also agreed that we will commence some meetings on the review of the Air Service Agreement on the existing Air Service Agreement on January 25.

“But nonetheless, not withstanding those discussions of the future, the current ASA will remain in place until such time where there is a complete review has taken place and there’s an agreement reached.”

A provision in the agreement also enables the two countries’ national carriers a dialogue platform to see a potential for code sharing on flights, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum added.

Prior to the impasse Solomon Airlines had a direct flight from Honiara to Nadi on Saturdays with Fiji Airways flying Tuesdays via Port Vila, Vanuatu, to Honiara.

Fiji Airways had wished to increase its flights by adding a direct Nadi-Honiara-Nadi flight on Saturdays.

But it was not allowed to do so by Solomon Islands authorities, apparently in a bid to shield their own national airline from the competition.

Both countries have now agreed that air services between the two countries will continue to be taken in accordance with the 1990 Air Service Agreement.

It also means the 2010 MOU currently in place by both countries.

Under the MOU and ASA, the designated airlines of both countries are entitled to operate a total of three flights per week each without the need for any additional approvals.

Mr Tozaka, who flew into the country on Sunday with his delegation, was thankful of the fact that they had seen effect of matters of the past being buried.

Strengthening ties

It also signified the new Manesseh Sogavare-headed government’s commitment to strengthening ties with its counterparts in Fiji.

“The ramifications that this impasse had caused to us economically as well as inconvenienced our travelling public is common knowledge,” he said.

“So it’s very urgent for both countries, governments to address this immediately.

“We have new Government and our first task to sort out this impasse. And I think we have done that well, and the understanding of Fiji and that’s what we are grateful of.”

The resolution also brings hope for the some hundreds of students from Solomons who come to Fiji for tertiary studies annually.

“This costs a lot of money and this would be very helpful to us for students who study here without having to stay overnight in (Port) Vila and also go in through Australia which is the case at the moment.”

Fiji Airways managing director/chief executive Stefan Pichler said their services should commence by mid March as marketing would start soon.

Mr Tozaka would not make any comment on Solomon Airlines plans as he described it as ‘an operational matter’.

Feedback:  ranobab@fijisun.com.fj

 




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