Solomon Airlines today celebrated the official arrival of the carrier’s new Airbus A320 ‘Spirit of Solomons’ H4SIB, as the aircraft completed its first commercial service from Brisbane to Munda and Honiara.
The much anticipated aircraft arrived to a water canon salute, a welcome by Kustom dancers and a cultural blessing at Henderson International Airport. Members of the public and invited VIPs waited at the Munda and Honiara airports to witness the arrival of the plane which signals a new era for the national carrier.
Solomon Airlines is steadily progressing an upgrade of its fleet and facilities to support the country’s future tourism strategy. The national carrier operates international services with the Airbus A320 aircraft and offers connections to 23 destinations across the Solomon Islands archipelago with Dash 8 100 and DHC 6 300 Twin Otter aircraft. On board the new Airbus A320, all leather, midnight blue seating comprises 12 Business Class seats in a 2 x 2 configuration and 132 Economy Class seats in a 3 x 3 layout.
“The configuration provides an expansion of economy seating for the growing number of inbound leisure and adventure market visitors discovering the Solomon Islands,” said CEO of Solomon Airlines, Brett Gebers.
“Growing interest in our destination from the Oceania and North American markets in particular is very encouraging,” he said. “We have been very eager to secure and receive our new plane as this has been a big project for us and part of a longer term vision. Reliable international air access and careful, sustainable tourism development go hand in hand and are of vital importance to the country’s future economy,” he said.
“Many people across our Government, Solomon Airlines Board, our staff, partners and suppliers have been involved in the process of successfully obtaining this new aircraft and retiring our previous A320,” he added.
A first ever Solomon Islands television and digital campaign co-funded by Tourism Solomons and Solomon Airlines in 2019, has also prompted an increase in Australian visitor arrivals. Total Australian arrivals for the 12 month period rose by 7.9 per cent to reach 11,011, representing 38 per cent of the 28,930 international travellers (an increase of 3.8 percent) recorded entering the Solomon Islands in 2018.
“With interest in our destination increasing and infrastructure improving, this new aircraft is symbolic, makes economic sense, and is a step in the right direction as we continue to work together to strengthen our national carrier and provide quality air access to the Solomon Islands,” Mr Gebers said.
Solomon Airlines this month also announced a new domestic schedule designed to improve Solomon Airlines domestic operations to pave the way for the growth of Munda as a second hub connecting international flights with domestic services to Western Province destinations.
Under its new domestic schedule, the airline will dedicate a Dash 8-100 aircraft to exclusively serve Munda and Gizo, renowned as one of the world’s most desirable underwater dive regions. A Twin Otter aircraft will also be permanently based at Munda Airport.
“We are bearing in mind the needs of the Solomon Islands community now and in the future,” Mr Gebers said. “It is important that we continue to focus on our purpose, working together to develop sustainable national tourism for the benefit of future generations, and in the present to provide safe and reliable inter-island air services so that Solomon Islanders and our visitors can travel easily between our islands and Provinces,” he said.
(Source: Solomon Times 10 March 2020)