The request to waive the landing fees for Samoa Airways at Faleolo International Airport is unlikely to be granted.
Instead, they are likely to be charged at a much reduced rate.
So says the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, who confirmed the request has yet to be approved by Cabinet.
“The Samoa Airport Authority’s (S.A.A.) biggest revenue is the landing fees and if this request is considered, it is a smart move to reduce rather than waive,” said the Minister.
Earlier this year, Samoa Airways requested the S.A.A. to waive its landing fees for 2018 and this was confirmed by S.A.A. Chief Executive Officer, Magele Hoe Viali during a phone interview with the Samoa Observer earlier.
The Minister, during an interview with the Samoa Observer, confirmed that so far, Samoa Airways are paying their landing fees.
“As Minister of Airport Authority, we need the revenue. We can help by reducing the fee, as the airline is trying to make some profit but not waiving it in full.
“Again, in my hat as Minister, Airport Authority also needs revenue to maintain our airport, in terms of electricity maintenance and bills etc.
“And they need to maximise their earning capacity and that includes landing fees,” said the Minister.
“It’s quite costly to upkeep our multimillion airport.
“Again, the airport needs the landing fees and that is why it is a wise move to reduce rather than waive,” the Minister reiterated.
Papali’i was unable to pinpoint how much the Samoa Airways landing fees, but made it clear that “other airlines are paying their fees and so should Samoa Airways”.
“I don’t know the details and you should ask the C.E.O.”
According to Papali’i, there have been correspondences between the C.E.O. of Samoa Airways and S.A.A. Chief Executive Officer on the said matter.
“Their C.E.O. have again asked the airport C.E.O. to reconsider their request and to date I have not seen a response from our C.E.O.”
Asked for a copy of the letter, Papali’i declined the request.
As reported earlier, Magele said he could not comment, but afterwards confirmed that Samoa Airways has applied to waive their landing fees.
“There is a thing called Air Service Incentive programme that is being utilised by the Atlanta Airport in America.
“It's a practice that is being utilised all over the world and the request has been considered by the airport.
“And as the P.M said, this would have to go through proper channels for approval from Cabinet as the Prime Minister indicated to you,” said Magele.
Asked whether the airport gave the same incentive for Fiji Airways, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia, Magele said no.
“This is how it works. We only offer incentives to new carriers or the airlines taking new routes.
“If there are current routes, why would there be any incentives given to those airlines.
“Again the incentives are only given to an airline that has developed new routes and or developed a new airline.
“Also if it is considered for the Samoa Airways, it has to be applied to all the new carriers.
“Unless it is approved by Cabinet, we cannot utilise such incentive, given that we are operated on public funds, so of course it has to be approved from the top,” said Magele.
According to the C.E.O., the same incentive was given for the Samoa Air and Talofa Airways.
“Also this incentive has to be paralleled with other new carriers and I’m sure that is how Cabinet will look at it.”
Asked as to how much money the airport will lose if the landing fees are waived for Samoa Airways, Magele was unaware.
“As of now, we are working on a feasibility study which will include all of that.
“Also be mindful that in every situation like this, it is a win-win situation, meaning that we help them and in return we will get some money from it.
“This is exactly why we have not submitted the request to Cabinet is because we are considering all options before the actual request is submitted,” said Magele.