When it comes to joint ventures in the aviation industry, Tonga and Samoa are determined not to repeat the ‘stupid’ mistakes of the past.
This was a shared determination between RealTonga Airlines and Samoa Airways as the Tongan airline was welcomed into Faleolo International Airport on Friday during the launch of its first regional flight.
In his keynote address the Minister of Tourism, Sala Fata Pinati signaled that the days of “day light robbery of our people” were over as Samoa moves to strengthen the Pacific alliance amongst the regional airlines and create a more independent South Pacific.
“It is certainly costly and very stupid for Samoans to fly to New Zealand over Tonga to catch Air New Zealand’s flight back to Tonga and vice versa for Tongans to fly to New Zealand in order to fly back over Tonga to attend a meeting in neighboring Samoa.”
“This is brutal and broad daylight robbery of our people by the big airlines that have lived off our sweat for so many years and to that extent we should never forgive ourselves for our stupidity. And it was a reason also for the slow growth for both our tourism industry.”
Sala highlighted very strongly that Samoa will never forget being at the mercy of multinational corporations before the launch of Samoa Airways and that moving forward they will have a more Pacific centric way of doing things.
“Joint ventures with multinationals airlines never works for small economies. The more experienced partners have many ways of stealing through artificial costs and fees. It is said that the Airline business is marginal, i.e. it makes small profits but when it dips the loss is quite big. It is an argument that perpetually makes a small country overly dependent on the mercy of multinational corporations. It is a challenge to our own entrepreneurs that if they can do it we can also if we observe the same rule for profitability.”
According to Sala, working together in the aviation industry is a win-win situation for both Tonga and Samoa especially since Samoa and Tonga are on the same flight path to New Zealand to the United States,
“Our people also travel a lot back and forth because of the great attachment to our customary commitments and family traditions. Therefore, flights to the United States and New Zealand and back are well sponsored by our own people which is reason enough for our two countries to closely cooperate in all areas of air travel and tourist.”
Echoing the same tone of renewed regionalism, the Deputy C.E.O. of Real Tonga Airlines, Fakatele Faletau, thanked the Minister of Tourism for his “brutally elegant speech” saying that Tonga too, will rethink the old ways of doing things and is looking forward to strengthening their alliance with Samoa for mutual gains.
“We are so honestly grateful that we can be the bridge that takes away the ‘stupidity’ as the most honorable Deputy Prime minister has alluded to. For two long we have been obliged.”
“So as our first arrival into Samoa we have been through many many talks with Seiuli and Samoa airways and we will continue to talk with them. We expect that we will be sharing both aircrafts very shortly. And I hope as we progress that relationship that we never fall back into our stupidity. That we forge ahead strongly as we ensure the potential that Samoa and Tonga can reach together as Polynesian brothers and sisters.”
During the formalities, Fiji Airways and Samoa Airways landed into Faleolo airport and parked themselves front in center of the welcoming party. It was not lost to those in attendance that the ideals of Pacific alliance were becoming a reality as one more Pacific airline joined the party.
“As we speak we see our Fijian friends arriving they came and dwarfed our airplane but how proud I am to see Samoa’s own 737 pulling up to support us as always.” Said Mr Faletau
Realtonga’s first regional flight into Samoa was previously scheduled to happen earlier this year but as Mr Faletau explained they had faced challenges such as rising costs, difficult regulations and recovering from a brutal cyclone in February.
“But as we Polynesians do and as we are, we are resilient and we are determined.” Mr Faletau said “We’re so proud today to land here in Apia, we’re so honored to be of service to the people of Samoa and to the people of Tonga.”