Message from our CEO this Independence Day
Posted on July 06, 2022 at 12:00 PM in General News
Dearest Friends and Partners,
As the days of 2022 are speeding by and the nation will soon celebrate national Independence Day on 7 July, we are also poised to turn a page and start a new chapter, bringing brighter prospects for our national carrier, and for the country’s tourism industry.
In the past two and a half years, through a combination of vaccination programs, our border closure, and lockdowns that stretched across our provinces, Solomon Islands has shown its resilience, that here too we can endure and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
After more than two years of isolation from the rest of the world, Solomon Islands reopened its borders on 1 July with mandatory quarantine requirements finally removed.
This extremely significant announcement by Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare means that we may return to a semblance of normality soon, as we move into the second half of 2022.
Solomon Islands aviation, tourism industries, and residents have been waiting for this day.
Reopening our borders means Solomon Airlines can again open up our flights and network to the world. We all understand that it will take time for our industries and for international air travel to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels, however, the most significant impediment to our recovery has now been removed.
I am immensely relieved and grateful that we have worked together to navigate Solomon Airlines through this exceptionally challenging period. It was most certainly not the direction we envisaged for the national carrier when I joined the airline over 5 years ago.
We were focused then, on returning to profitability and growing our tourism capability, and improving air access to Solomon Islands. Our strategy included upgrading our fleet improving operational efficiencies, providing more training for our staff, extending our network reach via cooperation with regional airline partners, and supporting tourism infrastructure development within the Solomon Islands.
Together with the marketing efforts of Tourism Solomons and our marketing team, good progress was made just prior to the emergence of COVID-19 when we expected to grow international passengers by 12%. As we all know COVID put a halt to those ideas.
The widespread and enthusiastic response to the Prime Minister’s announcement shows that interest in visiting Solomon Islands remains high and that our optimism about the future of tourism and air travel in our region is well-founded.
Our aim has never changed – to ensure that Solomon Islands is indelibly placed on the world map as an attractive, accessible, and sustainable international destination.
On behalf of the Solomon Airlines team, I would like to pay respect and thank sincerely the Solomon Islands Government, the Australia and New Zealand Governments, and our business and industry partners for standing by us and helping us to keep our nation flying through our most difficult era ever.
The past two years have been an incredibly long and testing journey, and we say tagio tumas to everyone who has supported us, for your patience and perseverance, especially our hardworking staff who made sacrifices to ensure the survival of Solomon Airlines.
Our immediate priority now is to stabilise our domestic network so that our citizens and cargo can move easily within the Solomon Islands.
We will also focus on re-establishing our core Pacific Islands network and ensure convenient connections from global markets especially NZ, Asia, the United States, and Europe via Brisbane, Australia, and Nadi, Fiji.
We have just announced our new interim international schedule which will see us accommodate passengers and freight between Solomon Islands, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Kiribati.
This schedule is a temporary schedule, and we will alter it with changes in demand.
It is likely to take a couple of years for us to increase domestic and international flight frequencies to pre-COVID-19 levels and the reason is simple.
We are recovering, and we do not yet understand the post-pandemic demand. That depends on people’s confidence to fly, the awareness of our country in the global landscape, and on the recovery of the business sector, and we cannot afford to guess and hope whilst flying empty aircraft around.
We will pay very close attention to utilisation of our services, seats, and cargo space and we will continue to adjust as required.
We also understand that customers expect and need reliability in terms of schedules and on-time operations. This is of particular relevance to our domestic customers who are most impacted by schedule changes.
There are still many challenges that are beyond our control – the condition of airports, runways, and navigation aids, and the rising price of aviation fuel. We have little influence over many of the factors which determine our daily operating costs.
However, we will continue to seek ways to contain costs, increase fuel efficiencies and find better ways to fly so that in the future we can offer more reliable and affordable domestic air services.
We will also continue to review and analyse our fleet - do we have the right aircraft now and will they be the right type for future needs? Are there better and more environmentally suitable aircraft that will meet our needs.
We will also seek solutions for our airports - we are grateful for the New Zealand Government’s investment in the proposed upgrading of Seghe and Taro airports to provide for safer year-round operations.
I would also like to place on record our acknowledgment to two longstanding members of Solomon Airlines management – Mr. Paul Alafa, Solomon Airlines Reservations Systems Manager with an incredible 42 years of service, and Mr. Bill Tyson, Manager Corporate, both of whom elected to retire this year. Our hardworking Ground Operations Manager, David Pearce has also taken up a new opportunity in the tourism industry.
We wish Paul, Bill, and David good health and the very best for the future and thank them sincerely for their significant leadership and personal contributions to Solomon Airlines over many years.
As we look ahead to the next chapter for Solomon Airlines and the development of the nation’s aviation and tourism industries, there are many opportunities ahead.
As a nation we are already more knowledgeable, better positioned, and better equipped to manage any future emergence of COVID-19 variants and other diseases.
Our Tourism sector has been preparing for reopening for many months, with many operators using the downtime to rethink their future plans, train or retrain staff in hospitality skills and upgrade their facilities for the day when tourists will return.
Solomon Airlines too has been ready to swing into action for some months now, eager to rebuild our network with regular flights between Solomon Islands and Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Kiribati services, with connections to partner airline services from New Zealand, Asia, and the USA.
Independence Day 2022 does indeed mark a very important juncture for the nation – and one worthy of great celebration.
This is the time when Solomon Islands again opened its borders to the world allowing travel to and from this nation again. Not only to welcome tourists but importantly to reconnect families and loved ones, many of whom have been separated across the Pacific, now for more than two years.
Chief Executive Officer
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