Airbus A320-211. Solomon Airlines has one of these aircraft in its fleet, with 16 business and 120 economy-class seats.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Belama Club, with tiered, fee-based membership, offers privileges ranging from priority check-in and lounge access to seat selection, although no frequent flyer points.
Belama class occupies the first two rows (12 seats) in economy class, immediately behind business. Seats, service and meals were the same as in economy. I had window seat 12F.
Two hours 55 minutes. Push-back from Honiara's Henderson Airfield, of WWII fame, was on time, at 1.30 pm.
Solomon Airlines flies from Honiara (on Guadalcanal Island) to Brisbane on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. One-way fares start from $192, including taxes.
The 120 economy class seats are in a three-three configuration. There are no personal video screens or power points for electronic devices but the seats are roomy, leather upholstered and have ample leg space.
Checked baggage allowance is a generous 30kg, plus hand carry of 7kg. "Priority" tags remained invisible to baggage handlers, as they do virtually worldwide.
It is an older aircraft but impeccably clean. Cabin decor is a muted red and grey. Because this is a short-haul flight, no amenities kit is offered or required.
There is an in-flight magazine and the headsets are free. One movie was shown on the cabin's overhead screens. There are several music channels.
The Belama Club lounge in Honiara is air-conditioned (as opposed to the general terminal, which is not) and has showers. It offers club members a limited selection of snacks, plus coffee and beverages. Lounge access is also available in Nadi and Brisbane. This is a full service airline, not budget, so there is no parsimonious drip-pricing on in-flight food, drinks and even water. While business class on this flight was almost empty, the economy class cabin crew seemed stretched in their much busier section, taking up to 45 minutes to clear the meal trays. The call button was ignored.
It is a short flight with a single-meal service. A range of complimentary soft drinks, tea, coffee, wine and beer is served. From a meal choice of two dishes, I opted for chicken with noodles. The latter were dried-out and flavourless. Hopefully, the other option, beef with rice, was up to standard.
ONE MORE THING
In early June, Solomon Airlines will launch a Sydney-Honiara service, initially once a week, which will be more convenient for southern state travellers than flying via Brisbane. Meanwhile, there is an online roundtrip Weekender Fare, ex-Brisbane, for $421 (including taxes) for a stay of between two and five days. The standard Brisbane-Honiara roundtrip is from $656 (including taxes).
Cheerful and friendly, but some service was not up to scratch; there is room for improvement in specific areas. See flysolomons.com.
Tested by John Borthwick, who flew courtesy of Solomon Island Visitors Bureau.