Solomon Airlines assists cyclone recovery, Fiji Airways’ advanced aircraft

Photo: Solomon Airlines

Solomon Airlines Chief Executive Officer Gus Kraus has confirmed the national carrier has sent a De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft and operating crew, to assist Vanuatu’s recovery efforts following the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin.

The 19-seat Twin Otter and flight crew will join Air Vanuatu’s fleet for an initial two months, to provide much needed operational capacity as the airline strives to restore vital domestic operations.

Air Vanuatu is working steadily to restore domestic and international flying.

“Vanuatu is a Pacific neighbour and Air Vanuatu a valued partner airline. They have asked for our help during this crisis and we will do our utmost to assist them,” said Solomon Airlines CEO Kraus.

Solomon Airlines Twin Otter aircraft registered H4-OTA and crew transferred to Vanuatu on 05 April 2023 to be based in Port Vila. The aircraft departed from Honiara to Santa Cruz then onwards to Santo, Vanuatu, before ultimately arriving in Port Vila.

In January this year, the CEOs of Solomon Airlines and Air Vanuatu met for two days of discussions to further their Melanesian ties and discuss greater cooperation between the national carriers.

“We are seeing renewed and more comprehensive partnerships with our neighbouring Pacific Islands and other national carriers in our region, and as such in good times and in difficult times we can maximise opportunities and provide support to each other,” Kraus said.

Fiji Airways to acquire advanced aircraft

Fiji Airways will acquire two Airbus A350-900 XWB aircrafts in July-August 2023 to meet its growth and travel demand.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad confirmed this in Parliament last Wednesday saying the A350 new generation aircraft is considered to be the most advanced wide-body aircraft in the world, and generated fuel savings of around 15 to 20 per cent with a full load of 360 passengers and the capacity to carry about 30 tonnes of freight.

After this addition, he said the Fiji Airways fleet would comprise four Airbus A350s, four Airbus A330s, 5 Boeing Max 8 and one Boeing 737 NG.

For the company’s domestic and regional services, the fleet comprises three ATR 42 and 72, and 4 Twin Otter DHC-6.

By August this year, Fiji Airways will have a total of 21 aircrafts.

“And the addition of these two new A350s will make Fiji Airways fleet one of the youngest in the world,” Prof Prasad said.

“In terms of new destinations, the two new Airbus 350s will substitute the A330 flights currently operating on San Francisco, Vancouver, Singapore and Hong Kong.

“The Airbus A330 that are released from these destinations will be used to introduce additional flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland to increase capacity that match customer demand and offer more freight space,” he said.

Singapore-Palau direct flights

Meanwhile, direct flights between Singapore and Palau are expected to start this summer.

Minister for Tourism, Ngirai Tmetuchl, with the Palau Visitors’ Authority team, met Amy Lai, Vice President/Head of Sales of United Overseas Bank, at the Asia Dive Expo 2023 in Singapore and started working on flights to Palau directly from Singapore for this summer.

The report says that Lai met with clients from Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam to explore ways to boost tourism to Palau.

In October 2022, President Surangel Whipps Jr. signed an airline service agreement with the Singapore government saying that the “agreement would also signal interest from the private sector, which also could spur business opportunities for Palau.”

He said, “He hoped that Singapore carriers like Singapore Airlines or SilkAir might look at Palau as an opportunity to increase their business and hopefully bring in tourists here.” Direct flights from Singapore to Palau would provide another international gateway to Palau and reduce flying time for most travelers from Europe and Asia to Palau.

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