Aside from continuing a weekly government-approved flight to Brisbane, Solomon Airlines confirmed on Monday that it would extend its pause of international flying until July 2. The Honiara-based airline attributes this decision to global uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant.
Solomon Airlines will continue operating its weekly flight to Brisbane
Solomon Airlines paused its scheduled international flights in March 2020 and has extended that pause every few months since then. By July 2022, that will be a 28-month pause. In addition to Australia, Solomon Airlines usually flies passenger services to Vanuatu and Fiji.
“In the current environment, we have no choice but to limit our international scheduled services to our weekly service between Brisbane and Honiara only,” said CEO of Solomon Airlines Brett Gebers.
“Due to the global uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant and the associated risk status, it is expected that the relevant Government authorities are unlikely to significantly change their approach to international border restrictions in the near future.”
If you need to get in or out of the Solomon Islands, the airline’s weekly flight to Brisbane is your only real option. That Airbus A320-200 service leaves Brisbane every Friday morning and returns later that day. It is a three-hour and 15-minute flight in both directions.
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Tough travel restrictions keep passengers away
The Solomon Islands, population 600,000, is an archipelago of nearly 1,000 islands located approximately 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) to the northeast of Australia in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The capital, Honiara, is located on Guadalcanal, the largest island.
Tough quarantine rules at both ends make these flights unattractive. Passengers heading to Honiara must be on a Solomon Islands Government-approved fly list. All arrivals are subject to up to 14 days of mandatory self-funded quarantine in Honiara in Government approved accommodation. A lack of quarantine beds means the Government doesn’t greenlight many travelers.
At the other end, unless you are arriving from a designated safe zone, the Queensland Government still requires inbound international travelers to undergo 14 days of self-funded quarantine in Brisbane.
Consequently, people only board IE700 bound for Honiara and IE701 heading to Brisbane if they must. The most recent Australian Government international passenger numbers cover October 2021. In that month, Solomon Airlines operated four return A320 services to Brisbane. Those four flights carried 110 passengers to Brisbane and 77 passengers to Honiara.
Solomon Airlines Airbus keeps busy flying freight and charters
In October, the airline flew 2.8 tonnes of cargo into Brisbane and 15.7 tonnes into Honiara, suggesting that the weekly flight is vital in getting critical and time-sensitive supplies into the Solomons.
Solomon Airlines isn’t a big airline. They have one Airbus A320 (registration H4-SIB) and a clutch of Dash 8s, which operate across the carrier’s domestic network. H4-SIB arrived at the airline in March 2020 after formerly flying for Air New Zealand.
The jet is on a lease from Carlyle Aviation Partners that ends in 2026 and is based in Brisbane. Aside from the weekly passenger flight to Honiara, the A320 operates cargo and charter flights around the region. On Monday, H4-SIB flew from Guangzhou to Blak Supiori Island in Papua Province, Western New Guinea. On Tuesday, the Airbus is heading back to Brisbane.
In its operational update on Monday, Solomon Airlines advised it will re-introduce regular scheduled flights to international destinations besides Brisbane as soon as permitted.