Talofa, and good luck to Talofa Airways, Samoa’s newest commercial airline which is being officially launched today.
For Tole’afoa Jeffrey Hunter and his wife Maria Westerlund-Hunter, it is clear they have already put in the months of planning, not to mention a hefty financial investment to purchase the planes and then there has been the wait for the requisite approvals to fly in the Pacific.
So while great planning was, and is necessary, some good luck will no doubt be welcome too.
But do we really need another airline?
We already have two airlines, Polynesian Airlines and Samoa Air which provide services between the two Samoas.
It seems we do, if recent events and passenger experiences are anything to go by.
In fact last Thursday (see page 15) the Polynesian Airlines C.E.O. Seiuli Alvin Tuala was called in for a “Please explain” testimony in American Samoa before a House committee where lawmakers voiced public complaints over the airline’s service over the last few weeks.
Complaints included passengers suffering long delays for some flights and people waiting at the airport for hours - in some cases 12 hours — without knowing when they would depart.
These complaints don’t cover the laissez faire attitude to departure times from Fagali’i Airport, Samoa where it was not unusual for your flight to leave an hour later than scheduled with little or no notice until you attempt to move into the departure lounge.
For those people who have business appointments and have planned to return from Pago on the same day, it adds extra stress and uncertainty to travel plans.
But it’s often experiences such as these that lead to better services.
Take for example Sir Richard Branson.
According to the billionaire businessman, many of his own endeavours were born out of frustrations he had with business – a good example being Virgin Airlines.
The idea came, he said, after American Airlines canceled an undersold flight and rebooked him and other passengers on a flight the next day. Rather than wait, Branson, who had already found success with Virgin Records, rented a plane, put out a sign at the airport that said “Virgin Air, $39 single flight” and ultimately filled his first plane.
“I have a philosophy: Screw it, just do it.”
“If you have an idea that can make a difference in other people’s lives, just get on and do it. I’ve been at it for 50 years. It’s a long, hard, grinding process in the early days and then hopefully there will come a time when you’ve climbed over the wall, your company is secure, and you can start being bolder and bolder, and end up realizing the sky’s not the limit and maybe go to space or do some out of the world things. Throw yourself into it, and have a lot of fun along the way.”
After that, Branson decided that he was fed up with airlines that didn’t care about their passengers and he wanted to do something about it. A phone call to Boeing to find out if they had any 747s for sale and an airline was born.
Here in Samoa we will now be able to make choices about the airline we will use and you can bet that with three of them vying for our custom, we can expect the courtesy and good service we deserve.
And correct departure times.