TROUBLED SOLOMON AIRLINE MIGHT STOP FLIGHTS ABROAD

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 31) – Solomon Airlines may have to end its international flights, the chairman of the Government body which owns the financially-troubled airline admitted yesterday.

Investment Corporation of Solomon Islands (ICSI) chairman Martin Maga said Solomon Airlines may instead have to "code share" with other airlines.

This would involve having seats on scheduled services these airlines operate, instead of operating its own plane and flights.

Mr Maga said the airline company is in a serious financial situation and this looks the best option.

Solomon Star understands that the Solomon Airlines board is carrying out a study that will determine the airline’s future.

It’s understood that the board will submit its findings to the Investment Corporation, which will in turn forward them to the Government for the final say.

The Investment Corporation and airline board are expected to meet today.

New Solomon Airlines board chairman Rick Hou earlier told the Solomon Star that they were given up to two weeks to give options to the Government. These were to be possible ways out of the problem.

The financial crisis became public when Australian airline SkyAirWorld grounded the E-170 jet it leased to Solomon Airlines for international flights.

Solomon Airlines had failed to keep up lease payments.

There are also reported to have been problems with the 76-seat E-170. These are believed to have involved problems with passenger and cargo capacity because of the weight of fuel it had to carry on its over-water flights.

Since the grounding on 10 August, SkyAirWorld has continued to charge Solomon Airlines for the aircraft. This is reported to be around US$27,000 (about $194,000) a day.

Solomon Airlines organised charters with another Australian airline, Oz Jet, using a Boeing 737-200 to maintain services on the busy Brisbane-Honiara-Brisbane route.

But two weeks later Solomon Airlines was in trouble again. These flights were suspended on Monday after the airline failed to pay for fuel for the plane.

Some Solomon Airlines passengers are also believed to have been carried on flights operated by Nauru’s Our Airline, Air Niugini and Fiji’s Air Pacific.

Solomon Airlines already has a code share arrangement giving it some seats on Air Pacific’s weekly Nadi (Fiji)-Honiara-Nadi flight.

Our Airline’s Boeing 737-300 has rights to operate on the Brisbane-Honiara-Brisbane route. It has also sometimes operated flights for Solomon Airlines.

There are also other possible partners. Air Vanuatu and Air Niugini are both understood to have had representatives here for discussions.

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