Member of Parliament Olo Fiti Vaai has blamed Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi for the “joint venture” with Virgin Australia, saying it was mistake from the start.
“It’s his mistake and I’m glad he’s correcting it,” said Olo referring to the government’s decision not to renew the joint venture.
In a letter from Prime Minister Tuilaepa to the Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Australia Pty Ltd, John Borghetti, he said Cabinet has unanimously decided not to re-new the Joint Venture (“JV”).”
During an interview with the Samoa Observer, Olo agrees with the decision.
He accused Virgin Australia of taking advantage of Samoa.
“We pay $1,000+ one way and yet when you go to Auckland, its $150-$200NZD to fly to Australia,” he said.
“They are making money off of the Samoan people, yet they charge us an arm and a leg.”
The M.P. reiterated that “the fares from here to New Zealand are extremely expensive and the airlines, are doing that by limiting the flights.”
“Virgin and Air New Zealand are deliberately controlling the flights into Samoa to ensure that they get significant profits from us,” he said.
“We advised the Prime Minister back then.... we knew the two airlines would dominate this market and sure enough they now and now the public is paying for their mistake.
“I’m glad they’re are correcting their mistake. This was long overdue.”
Olo said he expressed his disappointment in the deal right at the start.
“I never agreed to this from the start and I was very vocal about my disagreement due to the fact that Samoa needs to have its own airline.”
Levaopolo acknowledged the public’s concern about Polynesian Airline’s mistakes in the past,
But he is positive.
“I’m certain they have learnt from it. No doubt their mistakes was of significance as the government continues to pay till this day, the debts incurred from the airline back then.”
He also commented on the why the problems occurred.
“The predicament was that the former Management team was not looking after the daily operation properly as they should.
“There were a number of people on the management level, which was one of the problems.”
The M.P. said the government needs to look at capitalizing the move to revive Polynesian Airlines.
“The government in the past funded the starting of Polynesian Airlines and they can do it again. The government needs to invest in the re-starting of Polynesian Airlines.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa is adamant that the government’s decision to let go of Virgin Australia is the best move for Samoa.
Responding to questions during his weekly media session, the Prime Minister assured the government has learnt from mistakes of the past and is ready to proceed with the Airline’s international operations.
“When you own your own airline, you can make your own polices about your airline which will reflect the policies of our country,” Tuilaepa said.
He referred to the United States of America for example.
“Like America, they have their own airline.”
As for the joint venture between Virgin Australia and the government, Tuilaepa is steadfast.
“This can’t continue on especially when the airfares continue to increase and the hotels are complaining that there are not enough tourists coming to Samoa.”
Asked if the move has anything to do with the significant management fees, wet leases and commission paid to Virgin Australia, Tuilaepa was coy.
“We can’t continue this partnership. For any country, they have to have their own airline.”