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High fuel, operating costs cited

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 2, 2008) - Solomon Airlines has announced an airfare increase of 19 percent on all international and domestic fares. The increase will be effective immediately for travel on or after 19 August.

This is on the back of continued high prices for oil/jet fuel as well as costs increases for parts and the continued weak Solomon Dollar.

The increases were approved by ATLA (the Air Transport Licensing Authority). Solomon Airlines operates Brisbane-Honiara-Brisbane jet flights as well as code shared flights to Fiji with Air Niugini and Air Pacific. Its domestic service fleet of three Twin Otters and a Britten Norman Islander fly throughout the country.

Some two months ago, the airline advised of its long awaited rise in fuel surcharges. This was just to play catch up games with higher jet fuel prices, Solomon Airlines said in a statement Friday.

Since then, prices have continued to remain abnormally high to the extent of effecting all airline operations, it said. In its submission to ATLA, Solomon Airlines pointed out the huge disparity within the region of domestic airfares.

It also pointed to the continued increases submitted by regional and international airlines regarding increases in airfares and fuel surcharges. The statement said: "It has been four years since the last airfare increase (not referring to fuel surcharges) and the aviation arena has changed dramatically since then.

"We are far behind in our recoveries to maintain some sort of parity within the region and also to ensure viability is brought back into the business of operating an airline.

"The fact that we understand there may be an immediate downturn in travel due to these increases and our sense of concern for the average Solomon Islander, who can ill afford all the current increased woes to survive in our economy, has played a part in our delay in applying these increases.

"We, however, must act responsibly to ensure a continued safe and viable operation throughout Solomon Islands is maintained.

"In addition, the airline has continued to suffer domestic losses and is addressing this issue prior to reviewing the continuation of some routes depending also on Government views regarding subsidies for those community serviced routes".

The airline also pointed out that "even after these increases, our Brisbane return airfares will remain well below that of the competition.

"The team will become more pro-active in its application of new fare initiatives and better product development to pass more benefits to our Solomon Islands travellers well into the future. Performances relative to these initiatives will be monitored," the statement said.

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