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By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 11) - Brisbane-based airline SkyAirWorld yesterday promised cheaper and competitive airfares when it operates the Brisbane-Honiara route starting in March.

And the company’s head of services Simon Siganto told the Solomon Star national carrier Solomon Airlines must compete vigorously if it is to get its share of the market.

"We will offer cheaper airfares and a comfortable and reliable service when we enter the market in the first week of March," Mr Siganto said.

Solomon Airlines and Air Nauru are currently servicing the profitable Honiara-Brisbane route.

Mr Siganto said when they come on board, they will provide five flights a week using a dual class E–190 jet.

Mr Siganto and four officials from SkyAirWorld are in Honiara this week laying the ground work for their March launch.

He said more things need to be sorted out between now and March.

[PIR editor’s note: According to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, SkyAirWorld last May leased a ERJ-170 aircraft to Solomon Airlines to serve the Honiara-Brisbane route. The agreement was cancelled in August, however, after which SkyAirWorld sought to operate the route itself under the name Coral Sea Express. The company later reached agreement to form a joint venture with Indonesian airline Lion Air, to be called Lion Air Australia, to serve routes between Indonesia and Australia.]

Siganto said more things need to be sorted out between now and March. But he said tickets for the first flights of the new service would be available on the Internet and at the Pacifica Travel Centre in Honiara by next week.

Mr Siganto denied partnering with any Solomon Islander.

"We have no local partners. We will operate solely as an Australian carrier under the Australia-Solomon Islands bilateral agreement where carriers of each country is to provide 850 seats.

"From that 850 seats, we were awarded 470 seats while Pacific Blue was 380 seats."

Mr Siganto said Michael Maina, who was named as their local partners, was only giving them groundwork assistance.

Mr Maina is former board chairman and chief executive officer of Solomon Airlines.

Pacifica Travel Centre staff, who will exclusively provide reservation and ticketing, are undergoing training provided by SkyAirWorld this week

Civil Aviation Controller Bill McGregor confirmed that SkyAirWorld is now ready to join the current space fleet and that the deal has nothing to do with Solomon Airlines.

Mr Siganto said their E–190 jet, to be used for the route, is a modern and luxurious plane that has a dual class (10 business and 84 economy) seating configuration.

SkyAirWorld operated the E – 170 jet, which was leased last year by Solomon Airlines for its international services but was later grounded dispute between the two parties.

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