First Published: 19 Sunday 2000
A new chapter in the forty – one year old history of the country’s lone flag carrier, Polynesian Airlines unfolded yesterday at the Faleolo International Airport.
Hundreds of Samoans turned out to await the arrival of the airline’s new Boeing 737 – 800 aircraft, Island of Upolu arriving on its maiden flight from the United States of America.
There were sighs of relief and smiles everywhere as the plane flew over Faleolo International Airport, and descended to the recently extended runway.
To a standing ovation, the aircraft slowly and smoothly made its way into the airport, much to the delight of the airline’s employees, families and friends who had turned out to witness this.
Among those who applauded the arrival of the lane were the Chairman of Polynesian Airlines Board and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who was on hand to deliver the keynote address.
‘The arrival of this state of the art long range new generation 737-800 aircraft will help boost our plans to encourage the sensible development of tourism and growth in foreign exchange earnings, as well as provide increased employment opportunities for Samoa,” Tuilaepa said.
With recent work to upgrade the airport infrastructure and facilities, Tuilaepa said the arrival of the new plane was an “important step in the government’s medium to long-term strategy of improving the country’s infrastructure to underpin economic growth that will benefit all citizens.”
A strategy has been carefully planned so that the Samoan tourism industry will be able to maximise the benefits to be gained from the Australian, USA, North America, Europe and Asian travel market.
“The overriding basic principle applied has been that capacity must be tailored to meet stimulated demand but NOT to attempt to create demand to chase excess capacity, “ Tuilaepa said.
Tuilaepa conceded that the last time the company attempted to expand, it ran into difficulties.
However, he is confident that it will not happen this time.
“I must add that this fleet expansion, unlike the attempted expansion in 1993/94, has been carefully planned to ensure that we will not be faced with difficulties encountered following those years.”
Tuilaepa stressed that the government must take careful, measured steps to make sure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Polynesian Airlines’ Managing Director, Mr Richard Gates, who delivered a brief account on the development within the company, shared these views.
“Polynesian Airlines has had a difficult time in the past, but the present management is determined to succeed and ensure the airline makes a meaningful contribution to the growth of the country’s economy.”
He believed that such a goal will be achieved through the new aircraft’s scheduled flights to destinations such as the USA and Australia, together with the commercial alliance with Qantas Airways.
Mr Gates said: “The new aircraft complements some of the latest developments, whereby we are enhancing our corporate image and service to you, the all important customers.”
He further stated that Polynesian Airlines’ staff have been well trained to ensure that services are efficiently delivered to customers’ satisfaction.
‘We at Polynesian recognise that there is much more to be done and hence have dedicated ourselves to ensuring that our part in the economic growth of Samoa does not falter or flag.”
Poly Air will configure the Next Generation 737-800 in two classes carrying 154 passengers, 28 more that the current Boeing 737-300. The new aircraft has 50 percent more freight capacity, something that the Samoan travelling public must be excited about.
The aircraft is being leased through International lease Finance Corporation.
Since 1959, Poly Air has become one of the Pacific’s leading carriers, linking islanders with families and friends abroad and bringing overseas visitors to experience the diverse and unique cultures of the Pacific Islands. The Airline hopes to maintain such a reputation with the arrival of the new aircraft.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Council of Churches, Rev Oka Fauolo conducted a brief prayer service and Tolofuaivalelei Leiataua was the Master of Ceremony.
Present at yesterday’s occasion were Members of the Council of Deputies, American Samoa Lieutenant, Togiola Tulafono, Crown Prince Maatu and Princess Alailelua from the Kingdom of Tonga, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, Diplomatic Corps, representatives of the Boeing Company and members of the local business community.