The eagle has landed. It might have taken a while yesterday but the wait for Samoa in relation to her new international airline, Samoa Airways, is finally over with the aircraft touching down at Faleolo International Airport.
At approximately 3:47 p.m., the Samoa Airways aircraft made its grand entrance onto the apron to the applause of those present to witness this significant event.
It was a proud moment for the Airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Seiuli Alvin Tuala and the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell.
The Boeing 77800 glided its way on the runway to the apron area where it received a special water salute provided by the Samoa Airport Authority before making a stop in front of the Samoa Airways crew and government officials.
“I am very excited and happy today and so is every Samoan,” Minister Lautafi said.
“This is a big development in Samoa’s future. We are very positive that this is a move in the right direction. To grow as a nation we have to start taking steps ourselves and stop relying on others so this is a new venture.”
A smiling Seiuli couldn’t agree more.
“It was very exciting to see that,” he said about the aircraft’s arrival. “The real work starts now. We have to focus on a lot of things and make sure that we provide a very good service to our people."
“Over the last two years we have been slowly working on this and we only just amped it up over the last six months with lots of hard days and nights that have culminated in this aircraft coming together.”
Seiuli’s vision for the Airline is quite simple.
“We want to see Samoa Airways grow and make sure we have more routes and more passengers. We have to work now to make it successful and try to serve our people as best we can,” he said.
While everyone present was swept up in the excitement of Samoa’s new aircraft, the lessons of the past remained faintly in peoples’ minds.
The Minister addressed the white elephant in the room when he spoke about the way forward for the nation’s national carrier.
“I don’t even think about what happened in the past, that was before my time and if anything we have learnt lessons from that,” he said.
“That’s why Polynesian Airlines failed because they didn’t do the things they should have done. We should manage Samoa Airways as a business – effectively and efficiently to make money and at the same time we service our people, that’s what it’s all about."
“We’ve got to balance our service for our people with profitability. We have to survive and number one, we have to look after ourselves first.”
In reference to other competitors such Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, the Minister said: “We’ll see how we go and then when we see opportunities for them (Virgin) to come, we will let them in again but not at this time."
“We have to look after number one, which is one airline – and we’re going to try and squeeze between New Zealand and Virgin? No. Any business person will say that’s a failure before you even start – you may as well give up the dream."
“We’ve got to be very competitive and the whole thing is, we’ve been subjected to some very high fares throughout the year so they may give us low fares towards Christmas but that’s after eleven months of what I would say are the most expensive airfares in the world.”
Seiuli is optimistic about Samoa Airways’ future and he is also aware that their work is cut out for them as the nation’s expectations weigh heavily on their shoulders.
Going forward, Seiuli said it was imperative that everyone worked together to ensure the success of Samoa Airways.
“We would really like the country to get behind its national carrier and support it. Things have happened in the past and now that’s gone. This is a new day and we are looking forward to serving our people. We have very good teams that we work with and we are looking forward to the future."
“Without the country we can’t move forward. We need the country’s support and we need our people behind us and I guess that’s the main thing, it’s the people – we’re here to serve them."
“We’re here look after them and in turn they’ll look after us. It can’t be done on your own; you’ve got to have your people right behind you,” he said.
Before arriving in Samoa’s airspace, the Samoa Airways aircraft began its maiden voyage from Europe on the morning of Friday 10th November.
Prior to landing at Faleolo International Airport, the aircraft performed a fly-pass around the skies of Samoa presenting herself over the islands of Savai’i, Manono, Apolima and Upolu before heading to American Samoa.
On its return from American Samoa, Samoa Airways gave one final salute to its nation, with a low pass over Apia city before she officially landed at Faleolo International Airport.
The Airline will be officially launched tomorrow before her inaugural flight to Auckland on Tuesday morning.