Solomon Airlines has suspended operations due to a dispute with the island nation’s government over millions of dollars of unpaid money.
All flights were grounded at 0800 (local time) on Tuesday until further notice, Solomon Airlines said in a statement, with the airline’s ground handling work also included as part the shutdown.
Solomon Airlines chief executive Captain Ron Sumsum said the move to suspend operations was not taken lightly and apologised for any inconvenienced caused to all affected.
“This decision also affects services operated by us to our codeshare partners and services provided to all other airlines in our capacity as ground handling agents,” Captain Sumsum said.
“I am confident the Solomon Islands’ Government will address the situation in a very short time.”
Solomon Airlines flies to Brisbane from its Honiara hub. It previously also operated to Sydney, but those flights have been temporarily suspended since the middle of May.
Solomon Airlines general manager of operations and commercial Gus Kraus said the government had failed to honour its agreement to support the national flag carrier by matching the airline’s own investment.
“We believe the government owes us somewhere between 15 and 18 million [Solomon dollars] at the moment,” Kraus told Radio New Zealand.
“If they paid up those arrears we can slowly work towards seeking some respite and buying us time for the government to consider some stakeholder capital to be re-injected into the company.”
Further, Kraus said the airline has been unable to pick up its Dash 8 turboprop that had been sitting in Cairns since March after undergoing routine maintenance checks with Hawker Pacific because there were not enough funds to pay the bill.
“We are operating under financial duress,” Kraus said.
“If we don’t address the financial duress, it will become a safety issue.”
Solomon Islands permanent secretary of the ministry of aviation Moses Virivolomo described the shutdown as “operational issues with the airline itself”.
“We are trying to resolve that as soon as possible,” Virivolomo said.