A new era in the history of aviation between Samoa and Tonga is set to start when Real Tonga’s operations out of Faleolo Airport takes off seven days from today.
The Airline is set to use its SAAB 340 plane to transport passengers between the two island nations, as the start of something the management of Real Tonga hopes to expand to other parts of the region.
Real Tonga Airlines Owner and Chief Executive Officer, Tevita Palu, told the Samoa Observer that this is an exciting time for them.
The Airline has already signed a codeshare agreement with Samoa Airways. Codeshare is an aviation business arrangement where two or more airlines share the same flight.
Last year July, test flights from Real Tonga Airlines touched down at Faleolo International Airport and the flight was 1 hour and 20 minutes from Vava’u.
The flight out of Samoa is a step in the fight direction, according to Mr. Latu who told the Samoa Observer the Airline started in 2013.
“I started the airline as a sole and private owner of Real Tonga in 2013 to service Tonga’s domestic air service,” he said.
“Moving to start international and regional air service is quite an achievement for Real Tonga.
“I look forward to working hand in hand with Samoa’s owned airline, Samoa Airways, to develop the air transportation between our two nations and to support tourism growth in the Pacific.”
To start, Real Tonga will operate two flights from Tongatapu via Vavau per week.
“We have three engineers based at Faleolo Airport as support maintenance for Real Tonga.”
“The Airline is currently completing final license requirements in Samoa and will commence operations with two flights per week.
“All flights are to be operated from Fua’amotu Domestic Airport to Faleolo International Airport in Samoa, via Salote Lupepau’u International Airport, Vava’u
“Real Tonga will be utilising the SAAB 340 for our regional flights, which will be offering up to thirty passenger seats and a full meal service.
“It has been over a decade since there was any significant commercial capacity between the two Polynesian nations.”
“He had always envisaged more than just offering a domestic service for the people of Tonga and he always expected that REALTonga air services would expand internationally and offer our people more choice, more flexibility and better fares than are currently available.
He went on to say, that the airline is in its 5th year of operation and whilst it has been a long process developing the airline’s standards to fit the international arena, he had made it clear to his management team, that he wanted services to Samoa to be available to our people and to the people of Samoa to be able to travel to their respective homes in order to celebrate Christmas.
Mr. Palu said whilst Samoa is the first of our international routes, his management team are already working on plans to extend our regional routes to offer safe, convenient, comfortable and cheaper options to the people of Tonga to other neighbouring countries.
“The two flights weekly are being scheduled, to provide convenient flight times as well as good connections to Pagopago and to the U.S.A.
“This operation looks to open up more travel, trade and business opportunities between the two neighbouring countries and the international leg between Vava’u and Samoa will offer further growth opportunities for the tourism market.
“The Samoa route offers the people of Tonga huge reductions in travelling time as well as air fares,” according to the statement posted on the Airline’s website.
Last year, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of Commercial, Tele Faletau told the Samoa Observer that Samoa has always been in the plans for Real Tonga Airlines.
“While a lot of people suggested Fiji, but for us, we’ve had a connection with Samoa for far too long,” he said.
“This has always been our primary objective for our regional flights and that is flying to Samoa.
“We’re very happy to be discussing a code share with Polynesian Airlines so that will be a joint Polynesian Airlines and Real Tonga.”
Mr. Faletau said Samoa and Tonga are next-door neighbours and it makes sense for them to work together.
“We’re brothers, and we haven't had any direct services for more than ten years. Ever since Polynesian halted their fully fledged airlines services, that all stopped.”
But the plan to revive Polynesian Airlines international operations is exciting.
“We have a lot of Tongas here in Samoa and there are a lot of Samoans in Tonga.
“To get between Samoa and Tonga, is very costly to customers over $2,000 and on top of that required an overnight and that didn't matter which way you went, whether it’s Fiji, or NZ,” he said.
“So now we’re going to offer a much more cost effective option for the traveling public and a much more convenient services... the airfare will be less than $1,000WST, because the flight is just over an hour.
“All the flights will come through Vava’u, the flight time that was discovered today [yesterday] was an hour and 20 minutes.
“It’s a very quick flight and it’ll be very convenient and on to top it off that this partnership will strengthen our Polynesian ties.”