The government of Samoa said the South Pacific country’s state-owned airline must remain financially self-sufficient, as it relaunches international services.
Samoa Airways began scheduled services with a flight to Auckland, New Zealand, on Nov. 14, and also will offer service to Australia. The carrier is based on the former Polynesian Airlines, which was operating turboprops in recent years. It was renamed Samoa Airways earlier this year after the government decided to resume international jet flights.
At a speech marking the first international flight, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said the government “has not given [Samoa Airways] any funds to start the airline, as [management] must run it as a business.” He said its forerunner, Polynesian Airlines, was operated profitably for 12 years, so Samoa Airways needs to show it can do the same with jet services.
Tuilaepa noted that many of Samoa’s neighboring Pacific Island countries “have their own national airlines and they have maintained their airlines successfully and profitably. . . . If others can do it, why can’t we?” Polynesian Airlines operated international jet flights several years ago, but was forced to contract after financial problems.
The move to launch Samoa Airways follows the government’s decision to terminate its Virgin Samoa joint venture with Virgin Australia, which ended this month. Virgin Australia will operate its own Australia-Samoa flights, although the Samoan government is blocking it from competing on a Samoa-Auckland route.
Tuilaepa said the establishment of Samoa Airways will ensure that some of the revenue on Samoan routes will stay in the country, rather than being sent offshore. He said the foreign airlines operating to Samoa are generally very profitable, but all of that profit “stays overseas.”
Samoa Airways is operating a single Boeing 737-800, wet-leased from Icelandair. The arrangement is expected to become a dry lease in six months after flight attendants have been trained. The Samoan government has said more aircraft likely will be added.
The initial services will be six weekly flights between Auckland and Apia, and twice-weekly flights between Apia and Sydney. The carrier has a partnership with Fiji Airways, which will allow it to offer codeshare flights to the US and Asia.
(Adrian Schofield - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)