Today, Solomon Airlines announced that its recently announced new flights to PNG will be deferred to the first quarter of 2012.
A spokesman for the airline said “whilst we have received the CASA-PNG FAOC approval to operate to Port Moresby and we announced that we would commence with effect 14November, it now appears that our approvals to join the IATA – Bank Settlement Plan (BSP) in PNG has as yet not been processed and although advised this will be soon, it does put the airline at risk that time is running and that agents have not as yet and will not be able to sell Solomon Airlines tickets without this approval in place.”
“What this really means is that all agents in PNG sell any and all airlines tickets based on whoever is registered and available to the agency Reservations system called Gabriel. That way, any agent has only to deal with one easy ‘back office accounting’ under one IATA banner….that is called BSP.’
The airline further indicated that when announcing the new services recently, it was anticipating the selling time of ‘5 weeks’ as already being a short lead time but the airline indicated that it thought it could capture most of the PNG students returning home to Honiara as a source of traffic to start the new services. “This however has not materialised due to their decisions to ensure their home return was secured prior to our announcement.”
The airline further said that ‘both these factors and especially the inability to “sell our own tickets from PNG” whilst awaiting IATA-BSP/PNG approval has meant we will now defer the new service until the first quarter of 2012 with a firm date to be advised soon’.
The way Solomon Airlines has set up the PNG operation is one of similarity to the Fiji operation whereby joining BSP has kept overheads down with only a Regional Manager visiting Travel agents/Business houses and Students tertiary institutions monthly and ensuring the airport operation works well whilst also keeping costs controlled. There is no sales office in PNG as such. All Travel Agents will be able to confirm/book flights or sell Solomon Airlines tickets throughout PNG.
The fact that we have deferred the operation means a more conservative approach to this new market which will yield better returns in the future.
The airline went on to say ‘thanks to those who have made reservations on the new service already but that these reservations will be transferred to Air Niugini at no added costs and requested those passengers to contact the airline for their revised details’.
In addition, the airline said “Agents in Australia have expressed concern at the change of our Monday service to depart Brisbane at 0700 instead of the 0930 as this will affect many of their clients missing the connections into Brisbane for the flight to Honiara due to the earlier departure.
We have now heeded their concern, at least to leave current plans in place over the Christmas period but the airline indicated that it has to build up its network to develop a stronger revenue base to expand its Tourism reach and gave a firm indication that there will be some adjustments ahead in 2012 although the intent is to ensure these schedule plans are minimal to disruptions which should be kept to a minimum.