A former Cabinet Minster and Speaker of Parliament has cautioned the Minister responsible for Samoa Airways, Lautafi Fio Purcell, to stay alert.
Gagaifomauga No. 3 Member of Parliament, La’auliolemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, used Parliament privileges yesterday to attack Air New Zealand, claiming they are out to extinguish the national carrier.
“To the Minister responsible for Samoa Airways, Air New Zealand is out to kill our company,” he said.
La’auli made the comment during the discussion of the supplementary budget for the financial year 2017/18.
Contacted for a comment Air New Zealand’s Samoa Manager, Lisa Ailuai, wrote: “Thank you for your email and for the opportunity for Air New Zealand to comment on the comments expressed by M.P. Schmidt during Parliament’s sitting this morning."
“I have copied in our Auckland Public Affairs team as they will respond accordingly on Air New Zealand’s behalf.”
But Laauli, who praised the government’s decision to revive the airline’s international operations, said he watched with caution how Air New Zealand has gone all out to heighten the competition on the Samoa route.
“All of a sudden we see them doing things they never did before,” he said. “They have suddenly reduced their airfares.”
He added that they are also increasing the frequency of their flights by bringing in bigger aircraft, making it difficult for Samoa Airways to compete.
“Where were they when our people were paying $2000 to $3000 to fly one way,” he asked. “Where were they all this time when our travellers needed help with expensive airfares?”
And now all of a sudden, the M.P. said, they have gone out of their way to try and kill Samoa Airways.
La’auli congratulated Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the government for their boldness in resurrecting the airline.
He also called upon Samoans in Samoa and overseas to fly with Samoa Airways and support the airline that truly belongs to Samoa.
Drawing on his experience as the former Minister of Agriculture, he said loyalty was the point of difference when he travelled to market the Samoan taro.
Samoan people will always be loyal to Samoan products, he said, which is something the management of Samoa Airways should remember.
La’auli reminded that “united we stand, in division we fall.”
Samoa Airways was launched last November. At the time, Prime Minister Tuilaepa called upon Samoans all over the world to support the nation’s airline.
“We as a country must embrace what is ours,” Tuilaepa said.
“It is time that we stand up and it is time we support our own airline and support Samoa. We are at the tipping point and it’s a point that will ensure Samoa Airways grows as Samoa grows in all sectors."
“We have a beautiful country with so much to offer, we can grow and showcase the beauty of our country, our culture and our people. No other airline will do that satisfactorily on our behalf.”
At the launch of the Airline, Minister Lautafi acknowledged the importance of staying competitive. In reference to other competitors such Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, the Minister said: “We’ll see how we go and then when we see opportunities for them (Virgin) to come, we will let them in again but not at this time."
“We have to look after number one, which is one airline – and we’re going to try and squeeze between New Zealand and Virgin? No. Any business person will say that’s a failure before you even start – you may as well give up the dream."
“We’ve got to be very competitive and the whole thing is, we’ve been subjected to some very high fares throughout the year so they may give us low fares towards Christmas but that’s after eleven months of what I would say are the most expensive airfares in the world.”