Solomons aviation ministry hopes to end shutdown

8:03 pm on 7 June 2016

The Solomon Islands ministry of aviation says it is hoping it can come to an agreement with Solomon Airlines after a total shutdown of its operations grounded all international and domestic flights.

In ordering the indefinite shutdown, the airline's chief executive Ron Sum Sum said millions of dollars in unpaid government arrears had seriously compromised airline operations.

Solomon Airlines

Solomon Airlines Photo: Supplied

The permanent secretary of the ministry of aviation, Moses Virivolomo, said attempts were being made to reach a resolution with the airlines today with the aim to have services resume tomorrow.

Mr Virivolomo said he wanted to stress to the regional and international community that the shutdown has nothing to do with the safety of Honiara's international airport.

"It is an operational issue this is nothing to do with the integrity of the international airport in Honiara. It has nothing to do with the security, nothing to do with the airport management or air traffic or the facilities at the airport. It is basically operational issues with the airline itself."

The manager of the airline's commercial services Gus Kraus said the shut down also had deeper roots in longer term financial commitments made by government.

Mr Kraus said this included an agreement made in 2008 in which the government agreed to match dollar for dollar the airline's $US6.7million dollar expansion plans.

"We believe the government owes us somewhere between 15 and 18 million at the moment," he said.

"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 reinjected into the company."

It is understood that a core concern for Solomon Airlines is the strain being put on domestic pilots having to make longer and more frequent flights because of the continued absence of its Dash 8 aircraft.

The airline's largest and fastest domestic aircraft was sent to Australia in March for scheduled maintenance and repairs but Solomon Airlines has since not been able to pay the bill.