Samoa Airways' new aircraft might not be able to service Australian routes

By Alexander Rheeney 13 March 2019, 12:00AM

Services to Australian destinations that Samoa Airways's new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft will fly to could be disrupted, after Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) temporarily suspended the operations of all Boeing MAX aircraft into and out of Australia.

The CASA issued the temporary suspension notice to airlines yesterday, joining a growing number of aviation regulators and airlines around the world who have grounded the operations of all Boeing MAX aircraft, following the fatal crash of an Ethiopian plane on Sunday which killed 159 people. 

The Samoan national carrier currently flies to the Australian destinations Brisbane and Sydney using its current Boeing 737-800. The lease of the Boeing 737-800 will expire at the end of this month. 

The Samoa Airways-leased Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft is expected in the country end of this month with the airline issuing a statement recently, which said the leased aircraft will replace the Boeing 737-800 and makes the airline the first in the Pacific to operate a Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. 

The airline said an agreement between the Samoa Government and the US company Air Lease Corporation (ALC) was signed by the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, Samoa Airways Chairman Feesago Siaosi Fepuleai and the ALC executive chairman Steven Hazy.

The new Boeing 737 MAX 9 will be configured with 16 business class seats and 173 seats in economy class, and will operate between Apia, Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane.

The Minister of Public Enterprises Lautafi Selafi Purcell, whose ministerial responsibilities include Samoa Airways, told the Samoa Observer in an interview today the Government is monitoring the situation. They will make a decision on when the airline's new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft will be ready for service in Samoa after they receive all relevant information from aviation regulators including the American government's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Meanwhile, a Fiji Airways spokesman told the Samoa Observer today that its business as usual for the airline's Boeing MAX aircraft fleet despite growing global concerns and will not ground their planes. Their services to Samoa – which uses a Boeing MAX 8 aircraft – will not be affected according to the official. 

But the airline, in a statement issued at 10.00pm last night (Fiji Time), said it was complying with the directive from Australia's CASA and will suspend all Boeing 737 MAX 8 operations to and from Australia. The Fiji airline said it had confidence in the airworthiness of their Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and robust training programme, but they respect the position of CASA. 

"As such, we will be changing the aircraft type operating to/from Sydney, Brisbane. Melbourne and Adelaide until further advised. Some schedule changes are likely and affected customers will be notified. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and remain in constant contact with all relevant state regulators and authorities. The safety of our passengers and crew is, and always will be, our number one priority," said the Fiji Airways statement. 

By Alexander Rheeney 13 March 2019, 12:00AM

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