The heads of two South Pacific airlines have met in Port Vila to discuss deepening ties and cooperation. Gus Kraus from Solomons - Solomon Airlines (IE, Honiara) went to Vanuatu for two days of talks with the acting CEO of Air Vanuatu (NF, Port Vila), Joseph Laloyer, earlier this month.

“This is our first round of discussions, and we will meet again in the near future to map out our longer-term joint aims and to progress to a planned MOU," said Kraus via a media statement

In the short term and subject to Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu (CAAV) approval, Kraus will lend DHC-6-300 Twin Otter pilots to Air Vanuatu, with that carrier facing a critical pilot shortage after around 25% of Air Vanuatu's pilots resigned last year. A Solomon Airlines spokesperson told ch-aviation that they initially plan to send a C&T Captain to Air Vanuatu in early February for one to two weeks "to assist in their C/T advances." Then a captain and first officer will be sent to Port Vila to assist. Air Vanuatu's Manager of Marketing Linda Kalpoi told the Daily Post newspaper that the matter remained under discussion and no firm decision on numbers had been made.

Solomon Airlines operates five aircraft, including a single A320-200, three DHC-6-300 Twin Otters, and a single DHC-8-100. According to ch-aviation PRO airlines data, the airline flies to 25 destinations, mostly around the Solomons, but also to Brisbane International, Nadi, Port Vila, and Tarawa. Just two hours flying time away, Air Vanuatu operates one ATR72-600, one B737-800, and two DHC-6-300s (only one is presently flying) out of Port Vila's Bauerfield International Airport. Air Vanuatu flies to 32 mostly domestic destinations but also to Brisbane International, Auckland International, Nadi International, Melbourne Tullamarine, Sydney Kingsford Smith, and Nouméa La Tontouta.

“Solomon Airlines and Air Vanuatu are neighbour national carriers with similar responsibilities, aspirations, fleet size and workforces. It makes sense for us to work together," said Kraus.

After working as a senior Air Niugini (PX, Port Moresby) executive, Kraus took the top job at Solomon Airlines in August 2022 after the sudden departure of Brett Gebers. Kraus has kept the airline on a steady course and out of the headlines since then. Instead, Air Vanuatu has made the news with an ongoing series of problems, including the threat of aircraft repossession, that culminated in the dismissal of CEO Atu Finau and the entire Air Vanuatu board late last year, with former Air Vanuatu CEO Joseph Laloyer stepping in as acting CEO.