The government’s vision for Polynesian Airlines to return as a full international airline under the banner of Samoa Airways took a gigantic leap forward yesterday with the signing of a key agreement.
At Taumeasina Island Resort, Samoa Airways and Fiji Airways signed a Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U) agreeing to jointly pursue a range of commercial opportunities and partnerships.
The deal was signed by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer for Fiji Airways, Andre Vilijoen and Polynesian Airlines Chief Executive Officer, Seiuli Alvin Tuala.
Under the proposed partnership, Fiji Airways will provide initial support to Samoa Airways to help launch its international services to and from Apia to Auckland and Sydney through the use of its established infrastructure in sales, commercial, operations and maintenance.
It’s an exciting time for both airlines.
“It means that Polynesian Airlines will operate its own aircraft for its own benefits,” said Mr. Vilijoen. “Part of this memorandum is that a commercial relationship can result from this, between Fijian Airways and Polynesian Airlines, where we will cooperate on some of the services and most importantly on how we will provide assistance in setting up the international operations.”
The C.E.O of Fiji Airways highlighted the importance of strategic partnerships and for a country to have its own international airline.
“For our tourism today, 65 per cent of all arrivals in and out of Fiji are carried by Fiji Airways,” he said. We have opened critically important markets so part of this cooperation will also look at how we and Polynesian will cooperate to actually extend the services beyond New Zealand and Australia to many of the markets we serve like the U.S.A, Singapore, Hong Kong.”
Mr. Vilijoen said Fiji Airways is delighted to help Samoa.
“In this partnership, we are going to take 65 years of experience as Fiji Airways and we are going to assist Polynesian to get their operation up and running.
“There will be some services that we will provide but the objective is that as quick as possible to get Samoa Airways to be independent and self sufficient.
Mr. Vilijoen noted that many have questions his judgment over this arrangement.
“Well it’s very simple, the Pacific realm if I can call it, is where we live. It is ours, it should be us controlling and dominating the air space here and bringing the tourists in. I’m very pleased that this is a step forward in that direction, where we control our own future.
“This is very important strategic step for the Samoan government to control its own future. I can tell you today, we wouldn’t do as well as it we are, if we didn't have our own airline.”
Seiuli is just as excited about the partnership.
“For us, today is huge step forward,” he said. “Polynesian Airlines was established 56 years and a lot of our staff have been with us for 40+ years. They were here when we had the jet services and we’re going back to jet services.”
Seiuli also assured they have learnt from the past.
“We have learned a lot of lessons and I’m sure that we won't make the same mistakes. Again it’s never easy running an airline. As a country we need our own air services that will not only be affordable, but also this will enable to connect us to the world. Samoa is well placed in the Pacific.”
He said the partnership with Fiji Airways will open doors to Europe, U.S.A. and Asia through their connection with Fiji.
“If you’re going to Asia, your one hour in Nadi, you connect to Singapore, or if you’re going to Hong Kong. We will develop more international markets and Fiji Airways will open up doors to the U.S.
“Samoa desperately needs to be in the game that Fiji has run ahead and in terms of tourism, we need this partnership. We need to bring in more tourists, we need to focus on developing tourists.”
He also thanked Minister of Public Enterprises Lautaif Selafi Purcell for strongly supporting the partnership with Fiji Airways.
According to Mr Andre Viljoen with the M.O.U. both airlines can progress and conclude negotiations on the Pacific Partnership Alliance as soon as possible.
“Fiji Airways has been the leading airline of the South Pacific for decades, and we’re more than happy to help Samoa Airways’ efforts to re-launch international flights,” he said.
The Chairman of the Board of Polynesian Airlines, Feesago Siaosi Fepuleai confirmed that with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, separate commercial and operations agreements are now being negotiated between the two airlines which will form part of the overall Pacific Partnership Alliance Agreement between Samoa Airways and Fiji Airways.
“The M.O.U we signed today gives both airlines a broad and strategic framework of how the Pacific Partnership will be negotiated and finalised,” Fe’esago stated.
“Under the M.O.U, there will be specific routes like Samoa to New Zealand and Australia that will be solely managed by Samoa Airways and other routes where both Airlines will jointly manage through codesharing and interlining.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi congratulated both Fiji Airways and Samoa Airways on the signing of the M.O.U.
“The decision by our Government to pursue a commercial partnership with Fiji Airways was driven mainly by the critical need to look beyond New Zealand and Australia,” he said.
“We want to open Samoa up to the world through Fiji Airways’ long-haul network which includes direct flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore into Nadi and potential connectivity opportunities presented through its larger network with its other airline partner.
“The proposed partnership between Fiji’s National Airline and our own National Airline is a testament to the strong bonds that we share as island nations in the Pacific Region and embraces our Pacific Way of doing things.”