M.P.M.C. - The intention by Virgin Australia to continue flights to Samoa after its Virgin Samoa joint-venture with the Samoan government concludes in November, comes as no great surprise to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi.
Virgin Australia has applied to Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC) for 880 seats of capacity a week between Australia and Samoa after the Virgin Samoa Joint Venture concludes.
The airline intends to commence five services per week between Australia and Samoa from 13 November 2017.
The flights will be operated using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft configured with 176 seats.
“From the start, we had made it crystal clear that there is huge potential in our tourism industry to accommodate more flights,” said the Prime Minister.
“And Virgin’s application also reaffirms what we have insisted that they were deliberately scaling down flights to Samoa to increase airfares.”
In his weekly radio programme with Radio 2AP, Tuilaepa recalled that when the PolyBlue joint venture between Virgin Airlines and Polynesian Airlines was in place, flights between Australia and Samoa were limited to two flights a week.
And since then government have been trying time and again to add more flights but were rejected by Virgin Australia on the grounds that there was not enough demand to justify more
“After crunching the numbers, we had justification for added flights but not according to Virgin Airlines,” recalled the Prime Minister.
“And it’s fair to note that even Air New Zealand is looking at adding more flights to Samoa using their bigger 777 aircraft,” he continued.
“To me, it shows that both Virgin and Air New Zealand are scrambling and it could have a lot to do with our intention to re-launch our national carrier.”
As for Virgin’s application, the Prime Minister indicated that it won’t be easy for the Australians to return, reiterating that Samoa will play a deciding role in Virgin’s application.
“I am waiting to see what they bring to the negotiating table but it would be stupid for Government to say yes again and again.”