Due to the pristine exclusivity of the Solomon Islands, flights can be somewhat challenging.
The national airline of the Solomon Islands, Solomon Airlines, services the capital Honiara 4 times week (Sun, Tues, Thur, Fri ) from Brisbane. However, the domestic flights can be sporadic so you need to be prepared to be flexible with flight plans.
The vast remote area of the Solomon Islands means aviation is essential for travelling between the islands. I took to the skies in with Solomon Airlines to discover the Solomon Islands, flying internationally from Brisbane to Honiara, then went island hopping domestically from Honiara to Gizo, return to Honiara to Marau and via Kira Kira back to Honiara. Here is the verdict.
Flight: Solomon Airlines (IE) operates flight IE701 BNE-HIR and IE700 HIR-BNE
When: September 2017
Aircraft: International Flights – Airbus A320-211 / Domestic Flights – Dash 8-102 and Twin Otter
Seat: BNE-HIR was seat 27D and HIR-BNE was 29F. Domestic flights are sit anywhere available.
Flight time: BNE-HIR and HIR-BNE the flight time is 3 hours each way.
Check in at Brisbane Airport was swift. Do make sure you have a printed copy of your ticket as immigration on arrival in Honiara require proof of outwards journey. Once you start flying domestically in the Solomon Islands, check in becomes quite the novelty. Honiara domestic airlport has limited facilities so be prepared for a basic check in. Watch your luggage allowances as from here on in the planes get smaller, flying on an 16 seater twin otter. Check in at Marau is set up in the local school. Bags and passengers are weighed here. No facilities whatsoever so be prepared.
Flights from Brisbane to Honiara return are operated by an Airbus A320-211. Economy Class has 120 seats in a 3-3 configuration. The plane was clean and seats spacious and comfortable, however there is no in-flight entertainment besides the in-flight magazine. Domestic flights operate on much smaller aircraft – Dash 8-102 which seats 36 or Twin Otter which seats 16. These flights were slightly uncomfortable as room is tight and while waiting to get up in the air flying, it is incredibly hot. Take a water bottle with you as there is no service onboard. No toilets either so be prepared. However, the excitement of taking off and landing in such remote locations supersedes the uncomfortableness and the views over the islands and reef once in the air is amazing. Make sure you get a window seat.
FOOD AND WINE
Food and drinks service are only available on the international flights. This was a hot meal that consisted of a choice between coconut chicken and rice, vegetarian rice or lamb and rice, accompanied with a bread roll and small cake for dessert. Drink selection included soft drinks, juice, wine of beer. I opted for the lamb and rice with an orange juice which was nothing special but filled the void. My neighbouring passenger’s chicken option looked much better.
There is no in-flight entertainment on any of the Solomon Airlines flights, international and domestic. There is an in-flight magazine that was actually a good read and very informative. I suggest reading it on your flight over to get a good gauge on the destination. The domestic flights, your entertainment is waiting for you just outside the window. I spent the whole flights looking out at the spectacular scenery below – azures, blues and greens of reef and islands below. Do take a book if you get bored on flights.
The airport lounge at Honiara International Airport.The flight was shorter than I expected to the Solomon Islands, so I really was not fused for all the bells and whistles. The international flights were clean and comfortable, with the staff onboard making it pleasurable. I absolutely loved the domestic flights. Something about small planes where you feel you are sitting on the pilot’s lap, grass runways and bumpy landings that scream adventure and excite me. Would definitely fly Solomon Airlines again.
Kate flew as a guest of Solomon Airlines and Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau.