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Solomon Airlines resumes flights to Lomlom

Posted on December 03, 2021 at 07:00 AM in Schedule Updates

Following consultation with the Ministry of Communication and Aviation, Solomon Airlines has confirmed flights to Lomlom will resume, effective from Wednesday 8 December 2021.

Flights will be restored according to the newly released curfew-based schedule, still operating every Wednesday:

  • Flight IE394 Honiara to Santa Cruz, 08.30am – 11.10am/Santa Cruz to Lomlom 11.30am- 11.50am
  • Flight IE395 Lomlom to Honiara 12.05pm – 2.55pm

Solomon Airlines reluctantly ceased services to Lomlom temporarily from 10 November 2021 at the request of the Lomlom landowners. However, the national carrier said the decision to resume services had been made in the interests of the public and on the basis that lease payments are being made in accordance with the contract established between the landowners and MCA.

“We simply don’t think it is fair to the travelling public, and it’s not fair on the airline,” said Solomon Airlines CEO Brett Gebers.

“From our position, we are all caught in the middle and being used as leverage in order to better the bargaining position of a group of landowners. However ultimately we are accountable to the travelling public and local residents in the vicinity of Lomlom who need uninterrupted access to air transport, as well as to the Solomon Islands Government who has given us their approval to resume services,” he said.

“We have an obligation to the public to be able to provide regular flights year-round and not just at times of crisis or when urgent supplies are needed. Families are dependent on our services, just as we are dependent on flying a regular schedule to manage our costs.

“We are also entering a peak travel period and a season when inclement weather can often cause unavoidable disruptions, so the need to provide our services is even more pressing to keep people and air freight moving,” he added.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication and Aviation, Moses Virivolomo, agrees:

“The Government is aligned with the local community, we are continuing to pay airport lease fees based on airline services operating, and there is no reason, even in the midst of discussions between MCA and local landowners, that airline services cannot resume.”

“While we are meeting airport land lease payments and in accordance with existing and valid contracts, we expect air operations to Lomlom and other ports to continue. However at any point, if this is disrupted, we will cease our lease payments and air services altogether to those airports,” he said.

“We can no longer accept disruptions to the travelling public and the essential nature of air services to our provinces. We will continue to engage with landowners to find a solution whilst services continue,” he said.

Solomon Airlines CEO Mr Gebers confirmed that the airline would support MCA’s position.

“We are united with MCA and we will continue to operate if the Ministry deems the airport to be open, and we can do so safely,” he said.

“Airports are essential facilities in Solomon Islands and in most parts of the world, especially in remote areas.

“Most communities are very appreciative of having an air service, and many airports in the world incentivise airlines to fly to their towns as it is a well-known fact that air services increase economic activity.

“Governments and remote airports ensure that the terms of engagement are structured to attract airlines whilst making sure the operations are both viable and sustainable. However, we are regrettably regularly subjected to ongoing landowner disputes in the Solomon Islands. 

“It is very important to understand that disruptions cost the national airline a lot of money because every time there is a dispute raised by landowners with the Government, we, the airline end up bearing the cost of rescheduling and accommodating passengers on other flights.

“The viability of our flight operations and expectations of the travelling public depend on our routes being reliable and costs being contained.

“So we will resume services on the basis that the Government, our owner and ultimate stakeholder, has made their position clear and the airport is open. If landowners clearly do not want the service, Solomon Airlines will stop flying to affected ports altogether and focus on improving services to other areas of the country,” he said.

“It is however in all of our collective interests to continue operations to all airports where the community desires a service,“ he added.

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