American Samoa Governor, Lolo Matalasi Moliga, is optimistic Polynesian Airlines flights between the two Samoas will not be disrupted with the Samoan government announcing the revival of Polynesian’s international operations.
The announcement follows the government’s decision not to continue the joint venture with Virgin Australia to operate Virgin Samoa.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, the Governor said there is a fear that the Polynesian Airlines international operations could affect its current flights to Pago.
But he is said he is confident the Samoan government’s decision will also benefit the people of American Samoa.
“Any route with connections to Pago will benefit American Samoa. In any occasion any additional flights to bring people in will be added tourism for American Samoa,” he said.
In a letter from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to the Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Australia Pty Ltd, John Borghetti, the Prime Minister said the government is moving a different direction.
“Following numerous extensive discussions and negotiations held between VA and the Committee members of the Special Negotiating Team (“SNT”), Cabinet has unanimously decided not to re-new the Joint Venture (“JV”),” Tuilaepa wrote.
Governor Lolo told Samoa Observer that while the services to Manu’a needs to be improved, he said they have been working with Tuilaepa and Polynesian Airlines officials to make it happen.
Manu’a residents have been complaining about the airfare which depends on the availability of the seats.
Some people pay between US$170-$200 yet the flights between the two Samoa is roughly around US$160.
Lolo noted that while concerns arise due to the airfares, for him its better to have air services than none at all for Manu’a.
“We’ve been woking with Prime Minister Tuilaepa and Polynesian, to improve their services for Manu’a."
“We are also looking at it from one side that its better to maintain the service to Manu’a than not having any service at all.”
The Governor points to the unavailability of the ‘essential air service’ for Polynesian Airlines.
“This is a programme where the federal government subsidizes a carrier to ensure that the specified level of service is provided."
But that can’t happen given that its a foreign carrier,” he said.
According to the Governor, efforts were made for an exemption for the airline, but given that its a foreign carrier, it wasn’t allowed.
In 2015, Samoa News reported that Polynesian’s Chief Executive Officer, Seiuli Alvin Tuala, was seeking the American Samoa Government to subsidize the flights to Manu’a.
Port Director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele said the American Samoa Government did not have the money for a subsidy to guarantee seats on Polynesian Airlines to fly to Ofu, Manu’a.
“They asked for $200 per seat, per flight, which would be weekly. ASG is looking at paying more than $100,000 (yearly) if we sign up for this, and we cannot afford it," said the Port Director.
She added that there are no complaints about the flight to Ta’u because it’s always filled, however the concern raised by the airline C.E.O is that they may not benefit financially if they start flying to Ofu, hence the subsidy proposal.