Aviation

Solomon Airlines reveals expansion plans

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

Aircraft updates and a strengthening of ties with Qantas are among the key expansion plans for Solomon Airlines, according to its commercial manager.

Speaking at a media conference at Mi Save Solo in Honiara, Colin Sigimanu said Solomon Airlines was heavily focused on updating both its domestic and international fleet.

“There is a lot of work being done to refurbish our domestic fleet to bring them up to a standard that is presentable,” he said.

“The aircrafts are airworthy – there’s no issue about that – it’s just general cleanliness so that travellers feel more comfortable.”

Sigimanu said Solomon Airlines recently refurbished one of its Twin Otters, with the second one currently in the hangar going through the same process.

“We’re also looking at – if we can afford it – another Twin Otter to our domestic service,” he said.

“We currently have four Twin Otters in service – two of them are on lease – so we’ll have to release one of the Twin Otters to bring a new one in.”

Approximately 90 per cent of the airline’s domestic operations are via the Twin Otter aircraft, with just four airstrips taking its sole Dash 8 – 102 plane.

“In terms of our long-term planning, we’re probably looking at replacing the current one maybe with another Dash 8 or another aircraft of similar size,” he revealed.

“We haven’t made that decision yet – we’re still reviewing.”

As for Solomon Airlines’ international fleet, the company is hunting down a replacement for its A320, with the lease for this aircraft set to expire in the first quarter of 2020.

“We want it to be an aircraft of similar operational capability … that it can carry containers, because cargo is an important part of our business as well,” Sigimanu said.

“The A320 does have containers, so obviously [this type] is our preferred choice.”

Solomon Airlines is also looking to strengthen its partnership with Qantas following their watershed codeshare agreement for flights between Brisbane and Honiara in 2015.

One of the ways the airline hopes to do that is through a potential codeshare for its direct same-day Brisbane-Munda-Brisbane service operating on Saturdays, which launched in April following on from a major redevelopment of Munda Airport.

“Qantas are yet to carry out due diligence on Munda Airport, but it’s something that Qantas is working on,” Sigimanu said.

“What we’ve recently done with Qantas as well is an agreement to put our code onto the Qantas aircraft on selected Australian domestic services – the major city sources for our markets, so cities like Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and Adelaide.”

However, despite having a direct service to and from Sydney three times before, Sigimanu warned not to expect Solomon Airlines going back down that route again, admitting the airline’s last attempt was “maybe launched at the wrong time”.

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