The government’s latest foray into the world of international airlines through the newly launched Samoa Airways is a winner with Samoans in New Zealand. It was certainly well received by the Samoan community at the Fale o Samoa in Mangere where the Airline’s New Zealand operation was launched on Tuesday night.
Many Samoans and friends of Samoa were in high spirits and openly shared their sense of pride at having an airline to call their own once again.
“With today’s gathering, the (high) numbers of people that have shown up tells a story,” businessman Tuala Tagaloa Tusani said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Sure, we’re going to have problems in the early stages like anything but I think if we unite and give our resources to our own people, we can be successful.
“Why can’t we be like others? Why can’t we be like Air New Zealand and all the other ones? As a business person, it means that number one, my chest is out a bit now being a Samoan, and as a business man, it means I can travel daily or weekly - it makes things easier. Travel will be easier and more affordable and you’re dealing with people that understand your culture.”
There were a significant number of church pastors in attendance because of their extensive influence in their respective communities and their tendency to bring large groups over to Samoa.
In the beginning when it became news that Samoa would once again launch a national airline, many Samoans in New Zealand were skeptical given the history and ensuing failure of Polynesian Airlines.
Pastor Tavale Matai’a of Word of Life Church was one of them.
But by the end of the evening, he felt satisfied with the insights and explanations into the demise of Polynesian airlines given by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and Samoa Airways Chair, Fesago Siaosi Fepulea’i.
“I think there was some validity to the criticisms because of what happened in the past with the Polynesian airlines and other affiliations with other big companies, it never ended up anywhere,” said Pastor Matai’a. “So hopefully this time it will be more fruitful and it comes down to business codes and business minds that will run this properly.
“As it was already alluded to, that other companies were taking away the money. I think our people are the most travelled people in the Pacific if not the world.
“I think it’s a great move, a very beautiful move for the country to do this. It’s also insightful to know why the corporation didn’t do so well. And I could understand that especially with the villages and many trips that were on credit but were never paid back. Hopefully it won’t be a repeat of that sort of thing again. Pay up front and travel.”
Singer Marina Davis, who is based in Australia, flew over for the launch. She expressed hesitations over some actions the had taken against Virgin Australia but she remained positive and pledged her support.
“I’m so glad that it’s not going to become a monopoly,” she said.
“That was my main objection that I didn’t want it to become a monopoly because that means controlling all the prices but the Prime Minister specified that it’s not going to be a monopoly and they are going to continue with the lower prices. I think that for our people here in New Zealand and Australia, our main concern was that it was going to start off great and then the prices are going to blow up disproportionally later on.”
About the launch, she said: “It was really lovely to be invited. It’s such a momentous occasion and we wanted to make sure that we come and support even if I’m not participating. Sometimes I only go to events if I’m singing but today it wasn’t about that, it was about coming along and supporting and making sure to support our country”
“It was a really great launch and we had an awesome time and I think the message was really clear that we need to take ownership of our airlines and our resources and everything we have in Samoa – which shouldn’t be handed to someone else. “
Ana Tuiletufuga Hunkin, Hoy Neng wong Soon and Penina Ifopo Lefau had heard about the event and the friends organised to attend the celebrations together. The friends couldn’t contain their excitement and expressed how overjoyed they were to be at the event.
“I think it’s such a great accomplishment, it’s an airline that we can relate to and it’s good to have that connection with the home country and promote Samoa instead of other countries and I’ve already booked my four kids and I to fly to Samoa for the holidays,” said Ms. Lefau.
“I think it’s a great achievement for Samoa to finally (after the Polynesian airlines) bring back an airline, I think it’s great,” added Ms. Hunkin
“It’s a good investment I suppose and it’s good to have something that we are so proud of and its good for tourism.
“I’ve been with Air new Zealand for ten years now and today they were asking me ‘where are you going?’ when I was getting ready to come out here. But it’s like a joy – finally we get to have an airline to call our own so of course we feel for our country tonight.”
The Fale o Samoa was packed with many in the Samoan community eager to hear Prime Minister’s keynote address which he delivered in his usual style drawing raucous laughs particularly when he blamed previous government officials and men of clergy for their role in flying Polynesian Airlines on credit that was never paid.
The Prime Minister and distinguished guests were treated to entertainment by the University of Auckland Pacific Research Graduates as well as Mangere College Samoan Group.