Opposition raises alarm as government embraces open skies

May 22, 2024 4:54 pm

Minister for Civil Aviation Viliame Gavoka declared in parliament today that the coalition government is strongly embracing the concept of open skies.

However, the Opposition countered with apprehension, expressing concerns that such a move could spell the demise of the national carrier, “Fiji Airways.”

Gavoka says Fiji previously believed that open skies weren’t suitable for small economies, but this has not been tested.

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Open Sky is an agreement that allows two countries to negotiate to provide rights for airlines to offer international passenger and cargo services.

The Civil Aviation Minister reveals discussion with the United States as he highlights the possible benefits this move can bring about.

“Discussions are underway with the United States to finalize an Open Sky agreement allowing the national carrier to operate to various US destinations, thereby pushing trade and tourism. We support the national airline and are committed to elevating economic growth to enhance connectivity, competition, and consumer choices.”

Gavoka says the government fully supports the Fiji Airways network and diversification plan to enhance profitability through the policy.

“We believe an open-sky agreement will enable airlines to operate commercially, efficiently, and adapt to changes. This policy will allow the national airline to expand and optimize capacity and ownership and improve returns and investment.”

Opposition MP Faiyaz Koya questioned Gavoka’s and Chief Executive of Fiji Airways, Andre Viljoen’s change of tune as they did not agree on this venture before.

“We all support tourism, but remember that these open skies could be the death warrant for Fiji Airways. This is the same CEO who warned that while increased competition might lower airfares, it could also lead to the demise of the national airline. Hon. Speaker, this very airline saved us during COVID. We must protect it at all costs.”

Koya says Fiji has not done its homework to venture into Open Sky.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Biman Prasad made a short statement, saying the agreement about open skies will be looked into very carefully.