Air New Zealand’s inaugural Apia flight landed 70 years ago this April - the start of our commitment to stimulating Samoa’s trade and tourism and connecting our island nations.
As Air New Zealand’s representative in Apia, I’m proud of this 70 year milestone and the genuine relationship that’s helped put Samoa on the wish list for travellers worldwide.
Against this background it’s disappointing to read in the Samoa Observer suggestions by several commentators that we’re illegally working with Virgin Australia to fix capacity and keep airfares high.
Quite simply, this isn’t the case.
To make these claims not only misses Air New Zealand’s sustained capacity growth on the route, it ignores the competitive market dynamics at play.
To dispel the monopoly myth: there’s zero relationship between Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia in Samoa. Yes, we have a regulated alliance with Virgin Australia on our trans-Tasman services.
This relationship is restricted to flights between Australia and New Zealand and under the competition laws that govern us, we do not co-operate on services to any other market – including Samoa where we are strong rivals.
As those who follow our promotional offers will be aware, Air New Zealand fights fiercely for every customer to and from Apia.
We’ve significantly increased the number of seats we offer, with extra services and larger aircraft giving customers more travel options. In the last decade, we’ve added an additional 50,000 seats – an annual average capacity growth of four percent.
We’ve accelerated this growth in the last two years, making an extra 18.1 percent seats available in 2016 verses 2014. And we’re set to boost this unprecedented capacity even further, with an additional 3,700 seats in the next six months.
To fill these extra seats, we’ve worked hard to stimulate travel with regular sales activity, destination promotion (including supporting the All Blacks tour of Samoa to play Manu Samoa) and of course, offering a great on board experience. For the last six months, we’ve operated our premium Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner nearly weekly to Samoa and will increase its use in coming months.
I understand that despite these realities there’s still a perception that our last minute fares are unjustifiably high and take advantage of families requiring urgent travel.
However, it’s a fact that fares to all our destinations, including Apia, vary constantly due to many factors including operating costs and passenger demand, and the cheapest fares will always sell out well in advance.
Air New Zealand is committed to providing Samoa with services that are commercially sustainable, attractive to visitors and offer the best possible access for communities here. I’d like to thank our many customers for their support over the last 70 years and I look forward to working alongside our local partners to ensure our growing and strong relationship endures.