May 15, 2021 Last Updated 6:06 PM, May 14, 2021

Departure Lounge

  • May 16, 2021
  • Published in July

Boarding Pass

  • The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN body responsible for aviation, has agreed to ease airlines’ obligations to offset their emissions growth until at least 2023. The decision postpones the date airlines have to start paying for carbon credits to offset a portion of their climate impact.
  • Hawaiian Airlines will resume flights to Pago Pago, American Samoa on August 5. However international flights are subject to border restrictions and to change based on COVID-19 containment.
  • Air France plans to introduce a third weekly flight from Paris to Papeete from early August. Air Tahiti Nui has now resumed its Paris service however Air New Zealand says at this stage, its Papeete flights are suspended until 24 October.
  • Meanwhile Air Tahiti has reversed a decision to cut its network, and for now says it will continue to fly to all 46 destinations on its route map. It had earlier said it would fly to just 20 destinations. The government will provide a US$4 million subsidy for those routes which normally rely on the tourist trade.
  • The Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands (CAASI) building at the Henderson Airport in East Honiara burnt to the ground early July. At the time of printing, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication & Civil Aviation Moses Virovolomo said the cause of the fire was unknown, although there were signs the compound fence had been cut. The office regulates the safety, compliance, security at the airport.
  • Fiji Airways is recruiting for up to 30 “customer wellness champions”. The new roles require people with medical qualifications. The airline says it is part of its preparations to resume flights under strict health and medical conditions. The officers will lead the airline’s medical response on the ground and in the air. Fiji Airways has laid off 758 people due to COVID19.
  • Taiwan-based airline, EVA Airways may operate twice-weekly flights between Taiwan and Palau. Taiwan’s transport ministry is reviewing EVA’s application, although a launch date will depend on how the epidemic unfolds and real market demand. It is anticipated Palau’s COVID-free status will be a big drawcard for Taiwanese travellers.
  • Eight Pacific civil aviation authorities have participated in an expert airport runway safety training webinar organised by the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO). The training was designed to prepare the authorities and airports for mandatory International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) runway condition reporting requirements, ahead of a worldwide implementation deadline of 5 Nov 2020.
  • Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States have completed certification flights for the Boeing 737 MAX. Over three days, FAA test pilots, and engineers, evaluated Boeing’s proposed changes in connection with the automated flight control system on the aircraft. The FAA still needs to issue airworthiness certificates and approve training programs related to the aircraft before it can fly again. Fiji Airways was flying two 737 Max before grounding them in March 2019 following fatal accidents involving the same model in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
  • Air Terminal Services (Fiji) PTE Ltd has advertised 106 positions, just a week after terminating the contracts of 285 workers. ATS human resources manager Richard Donaldson had stated the company would introduce a daily fixed-term employment contract. The Federated Airlines Staff Association unsuccessfully sought an injunction against the workers’ termination, with the court saying the ATS exercised its contractual and statutory rights by giving two weeks’ notice of termination.
  • Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands will receive a share of airport safety and infrastructure grants the US Federal Government is awarding through the Federal Aviation Administration. The funds are earmarked to improve infrastructure and strengthen safety measures.
  • Qantas’ international services will not return until mid-2021 says CEO Alan Joyce. The Australian carrier has laid off 20% (some 6000 people) of its workforce and grounded most of its international fleet.
  • Mount Hagen, PNG-based MAF is preparing to fly to rural airstrips in the country once they are surveyed and given safety clearance. All passengers will need to wear masks (2000 of which have been sewn and supplied to the airline) and will have their temperatures checked before boarding and after disembarking from MAF planes.
  • Labasa airport in Fiji’s north is undergoing upgrading and maintenance work so domestic carrier Fiji Link has cancelled all flights in and out of the destination until August 4. Passengers can change their bookings to fly to Savusavu airport as an alternative.

The Shipping News

  • Kiribati will receive a US$12 million grant to help improve the safety and resilience of inter-island transport in the western Gilbert Group. In 2018 the MV Butiraoi sank on its voyage from Nonouti in the Gilberts to the capital. 88 people died. Now the Asian Development Program and World Bank are funding navigation aids and infrastructure, including jetties, boat ramps and shelters.
  • Matson has christened a second Kanaloa Class container/roll-on, roll off ship. The Matsonia will operate on Matson’s Pacific routes and will help “drive substantial economic benefits in and opportunities in communities around the Pacific” says the company.
  • Tonga’s first Joint Maritime Coordination Centre has been launched, providing a central coordination point for all maritime operations within Tongan waters. It has been outfitted with equipment worth $75,000 pa’anga (US$32,457)  from His Majesty's Armed Forces (HMAF), Customs, Fisheries and Police.
  • Port Denarau Marina has reduced its operations as a result of the pandemic. In a notice to shareholders, the Marina says all capital projects have been put on hold, but that the PDM Board is confident it can sustain minimal operations for several months without having to extend any existing financing. PDM will consider a 50% reduction in rent for all commercial operations on a month-to-month basis. Boatyard, fuel and private vessel operations continue on a limited basis.
  • Cook Islands ship owners will not have to pay any registration fees this year or next. The Ship Owners’ Association has agreed to subsidise the registration fees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We hope that this small gesture will ease some of the financial burden, during these trying and most uncertain times,” Chief Executive Eleanor Roi said.

By Samisoni Pareti

Fiji Airways has bowed to international pressure by grounding its two Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft effective immediately.

“In line with the stance taken by aviation regulators in our region, and an increasing number of operators worldwide, Fiji Airways, together with the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji, has taken the decision to temporarily ground its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft until more information is known about the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines accident,” says a joint statement from the airline and the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF) released a short time ago.

The statement adds: “We would like to stress that Fiji Airways, together with the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji, continue to have full confidence in the airworthiness of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, and in the skilled and experienced Fiji Airways pilots and engineers who operate them.”

Since the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines’ MAX aircraft last Sunday, many airlines and regulators around the world took steps to ground all the MAX planes in their fleets. This was the second MAX aircraft to crash and killed all its passengers and crew in a space of five months.

Last night, the Civil Aviation Authority of Australia banned the same aircraft from its airspace, forcing Fiji Airways to fly one of its MAX plane back to Fiji this morning without any passengers.

Immediately after the crash, Fiji’s international carrier had expressed confidence in the airworthiness of the two planes it has, and vowed to continue to operate them while waiting for the result of investigations into the Ethiopian Airline crash.   

Just yesterday, Fiji Airways’ Chief Pilot Captain Aaron Dean and its General Manager Safety, Security & Quality Sharun Ali issued an internal memorandum to assure airline employees of the safety of the MAX planes.

But intense pressure from other regulators and airlines including Fiji’s shadow minister for civil aviation Bill Gavoka who yesterday called on Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama to order the airline to ground the aircraft forced the national carrier to change its mind.

“Since Fiji Airways commenced operating the Boeing 737 MAX in December 2018, the aircraft has proven to be reliable and efficient, and continuous flight data monitoring has not identified any issues that would give rise to a cause for concern,” the joint statement from Fiji Airways and CAAF said.

“However, out of deference to the position taken by regulators in our region, and in response to the concerns expressed by the general public, both Fiji Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji have agreed that the most appropriate course is to impose this temporary grounding.  We will continue to monitor developments closely, and this decision will be reviewed in light of any new information.”


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