The Solomon Island's government quietly dropped a SBD20 million Solomon Islands dollar (USD2.4 million) debt owed to it by state-owned Solomons - Solomon Airlines (IE, Honiara), according to the Solomon Star newspaper.

The country's 2022 budget, handed down in April 2022, reportedly accounted for the forgiven debt that was facilitated by the Minister for Finance and Treasury, Harry Kuma. However, there is no specific reference to this in the published 2022 budget speech, approved development budget, or approved recurrent budget.

"In the 2022 budget, we saw it fit to forgo SBD20 million debts that Solomon Airlines has with the government and that is the big relief for Solomon Airlines,” said Minister for Communication and Aviation, Peter Shanel Agovaka, at an event at Henderson Airfield in Honiara to mark the arrival of the airline's second A320-200. ch-aviation has contacted the minister's office for further information.

That second Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac)-0, H4-SAL (msn 5566), ferried in from Brisbane International on July 27. The aircraft's arrival doubles the carrier's jet capacity, joining its other A320-200, H4-SIB (msn 2445), on the apron in Honiara. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare called the second aircraft's arrival "the start of a new chapter for the Solomons."

Formerly flying for Jetstar Airways (JQ, Melbourne Tullamarine) as VH-VFN, the 10.47-year-old narrowbody Airbus comes on an operating lease from BOC Aviation. The country's National Provident Fund is funding the lease commitments via a SBD26 million Solomon Island dollar (USD3.1 million) loan.

The risks of operating a single jet operation while running a scheduled passenger airline were highlighted in May when the state-owned Solomons grounded H4-SIB over a fuel contamination issue, forcing the carrier to wet-lease in capacity from operators such as Nauru Airlines (Nauru) to maintain its schedules.

In addition to providing in-house capacity insurance for unforeseen events like this, the second A320 will allow Solomon Airlines to boost frequencies on its jet-operated services to Brisbane, Auckland International, Port Vila, Nadi, Honiara, and Espiritu Santo. At an event in Honiara this week to mark the aircraft's arrival, Sogavare said new services to Port Moresby are on the agenda, and that neighbouring Air Vanuatu (NF, Port Vila) would also wet lease the plane on an ongoing basis to operate certain scheduled services. He said "partnership" discussions to service markets in Samoa, Tonga, and Kiribati were also underway with the respective governments.

At the arrival event, Sogavare spoke of a longer-term ambition to upgrade Honiara Airport's infrastructure to accommodate widebody aircraft, including Solomon Airlines-operated flights. In addition to its homegrown carrier, Qantas, Air Niugini, and Fiji Airways fly into Honiara. However, with a runway length of 2,200-metres, the operators use narrowbody aircraft. But Sogavare says he wants Solomon Airlines to start flying direct, nonstop, long-haul flights into markets such as Manila Ninoy Aquino International, Singapore Changi, Seoul Incheon, and China. He adds that the Chinese government has offered to "partner" with the Solomons government to make this happen.

On the same day that Agovaka revealed details about the government's decision to forgive the debt, the airline's chairman, Frank Wickham, said the airline was in a good position going forward, and the lease was "a significant commitment based on our confidence in the future."