BY JENNIFER KUSAPA
Concerns have been raised over the freights charged in flights carrying covid relief supplies to some provinces.
Airlines has said it has been allowed in their collaboration with the two governments of Australia and Solomon Islands to charge their normal freight rates per flight.
Speaking to Island Sun from Taro last week, Mr Max Qoso says apart from covid supplies, the residents of the township desperately need food, especially the main staple food – rice.
He adds, the recent flight did not bring any rice except a couple of noodles and biscuits.
“This is because the Airlines charged exorbitant freights on food items which private citizens wanted to send over to their relatives here in Taro, hence they could not afford to send over food.
“We have heard over the radio that the government of Australia has stepped in to fund these relief flights to the provinces, so it seems the Airlines is double dipping by getting money from the Australian government and freighting the poor people who want to send over food.
“This state-owned enterprise is making handsome profits out of the covid-19 outbreak in the country this way, and it is just not right.”
Qoso adds that Taro and nearby Supizae are small islands, and their huge number of residents are without gardens that would supplement rice.
And, with current movement restrictions, people from the mainland of Choiseul cannot bring over staple food supplements to Taro, he said.
Responding to Island Sun enquiry on the matter over the weekend, Airlines CEO Brett Gebers refutes suggestions that the airline is looking to make profit out of the covid-19 situation in the country.
He clarifies that on the contrary the airlines is not making any profit, rather is supporting the Solomons government in its effort to quell the covid outbreak.
“Solomon Airlines rejects any suggestion of improper charging or ‘double dipping’,” said Mr Gebers.
“On January 19, 2022 we were ordered by the OSC to stop flying domestically. After discussion, the OSC agreed to allow limited cargo flights to operate from Monday, February 7.
“We firstly carry medical supplies for the Government and then, if there is space left over, we are permitted to carry general cargo excluding cigarettes and betel nuts,” he said.
“The OSC told us that we must charge our normal commercial rates for cargo. These are the same rates that we have used for a long time.
“These rates do not cover the cost of carrying cargo in one direction and nothing on the return flight. We only cover our costs and make no profit on these flights as this is a service to the community,” he added.
“The Australian Government makes up the difference between the cost of operating the flight minus the revenue generated from cargo. If we did not have this arrangement in place, we could not offer the flights as the cost would be unaffordable,” Gebers said.