Airfares go up

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Travellers to pay for Solomon Islands’ newest state-owned enterprise

 

By Alfred Sasako

INTERNATIONAL and domestic travellers alike have been slugged a hefty Airport Tax in an attempt to assist the Government set up the nation’s newest State-Owned Enterprise (SOE), the Solomon Islands Airport Corporation Ltd (SIACL).

Sources told Island Sun yesterday the tax measure – introduced in this year’s budget – could be as high as $610 on a single international return fare between Brisbane and Honiara and $150 return on a single return fare from Honiara to any domestic airstrip around the country.

These charges are additional to the normal domestic and international airfares on all Solomon Airlines routes.

The sources said funds raised from the airport tax would be used to set up the nation’s sixth SOE. Existing SOEs are the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (SINPF), Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA), Solomon Islands Water Authority (SIWA), Solomon Islands Electricity Authority (SIEA) and Solomon Airlines (SA).

Senior government officials, including those from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Communication and the Ministry of Infrastructure Development are reportedly on the board of directors of the new SOE.

It is understood this is an interim arrangement only until adequate funding is secured to set up a fully-fledged organisation.

Sources told Island Sun yesterday that Solomon Airlines, which the Government has directed to receive the tax on its behalf – started collecting the tax as of last week.

Given that airfares in Solomon Islands are amongst the most expensive in the world, the new tax measure could impact on tourist visitor arrival numbers in Solomon Islands. Figures for the nine month to September last year show 18, 507 overseas visitors arrived in Solomon Islands.

Several people, including Travel Agencies spoken to by Island Sun yesterday gave different figures on the new airport tax.

Solomon Airlines put the new tax at $275 each way on international routes while travel agencies say the actual tax was $305 each way on overseas routes.

According to one Travel Agent, the new tax on the international route is $305 on a one-way ticket from say, Brisbane to Honiara. To return to Brisbane, the traveller must pay another $305 on top of his ticket.

On the domestic route, the new tax is $75 on a one-way ticket from Honiara to any domestic destination around the country. To return to Honiara, the traveller is expected to pay another $75.

Meanwhile Solomon Airlines has reportedly substantial payments to a company in Portugal for the overhaul of the engine for its Airbus A320 aircraft. Island Sun understands TAP is the company in Portugal that is the agent for the type of engine used on the Airbus aircraft.

The delay in getting the aircraft fixed quickly is due to high demand for the type of engine which is being highly sought after by Airbus aircraft operators.

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