Alii Palau Airlines (Koror) has rebutted claims it has failed to apply to Singapore's Civil Aviation Authority (CAAS) for permission to fly between Palau and the city-state, despite saying it intends to start flights on the country pair on September 12.

Last week, Singapore's Straits Times newspaper reported a CAAS spokesperson saying that, “As at August 16, CAAS has not received an application from Alii Palau for a foreign operator operations permit or any applications by any airline to operate flights between Singapore and Palau. All foreign airlines intending to operate commercial air services to Singapore must first obtain a permit from CAAS.”

While Singapore signed an open skies agreement with Palau in October 2022, foreign operators still need to apply to the CAAS for a foreign operator permit. The CAAS spokesperson added that any prospective airline's capabilities and safety record would be reviewed before a permit is issued.

In April, as reported by ch-aviation, a bullish Alii Palau Airlines flagged beginning twice weekly roundtrips between Koror and Singapore in mid-June, increasing to three times a week in mid-July. The latest proposed start date is September 12.

Responding to "circulating reports," Alii Palau Airlines says it is fully compliant with the necessary regulatory frameworks. "We wish to take this opportunity to share that our aircraft leasing arrangement is already established with a reputable operator, who have all necessary capabilities and safety records, including a foreign operator operations permit (FOP) issued by Singapore's regulatory body and air operator certificate (AOC)," an August 18 post on Alii Palau's social media reads.

The promoter behind Alii Palau is James S.C. Goh, a native Singaporean with extensive business interests in Palau. In a June 2023 interview, he said Alii Palau Airlines had secured an A319-100 on charter from an Abu Dhabi-based firm. Goh proposes operating the aircraft in its current "luxury" configuration - 32 seats in business class and 18 in economy class. He said he had asked the Changi Airport Slot Coordinator for a morning departure from that airport. Based on five hours flying time in both directions, that allows for a same-day return.

"It (Alii Palau) is financially viable," Goh told the Marianas Business Journal last week. "We have financing already in place for the launch." He said that funding was coming from private investors in their role as shareholders. He also said his proposed airline that the "100%" backing of the Palau government.

That outlet revealed further details on Alii Palau's initial management team. Goh will take on the role of chairman. Akanksha Johri, a Singaporean resident, takes on the role of chief financial officer. Board members include Hayato Sugiyama, a principal at Palau H. Sugiyama and Associates; Glenn Seid, founder of Karisma Group; and Terence Ruluked, the part owner of TRIM Inc. In advisory roles are the Airai state governor, Norman Ngiratecheboet, and Vlodymyr Bilotkach, an aviation economist at Purdue University.

In the June interview, Goh said pre-launch interest was strong. "We are already planning a second aircraft as a travel agent wants a minimum of 100 seats a flight, twice a week," he said. That second aircraft will operate as a charter, which Goh has discovered is subject to less regulatory red tape than proposed scheduled operations. He says the second aircraft will connect Koror with Guangzhou or Haikou via Singapore.

Goh has some previous airline industry experience. At one stage, he acquired a 102-room hotel in Palau and went on to organise three times-a-week charters between Taiwan and Palau to fill the rooms. At its peak, those charters flew 90,000 passengers annually, becoming a successful travel and tourism venture. He later exited the business at a profit.