Samoa pulls out from multilateral air service agreement

The Samoa Government has pulled out from a multilateral air services agreement and now prefers bilateral air services arrangements with trade partners. 

Samoa was a member of the  Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalization of International Air Transportation (MALIAT) but exercised its option recently to pull out from the agreement which also included New Zealand, United States, Singapore, Dubai, Chile, Cook Islands and Tonga. 

Ministry of Transport Works and Infrastructure (MTWI) Chief Executive Officer, Magele Hoe Viali, told Samoa Observer in an interview that it is up to the signatory States to determine the usefulness of such agreements to their local aviation industries.

“It is up to the State’s choice as to the usefulness of these sorts of multilateral Air Service Agreements to their aviation industries. Samoa has existing bilateral Air Service Agreements with New Zealand and Tonga, which the MALIAT had superseded.  

“The MALIAT is an old air service agreements and Samoa now prefers to use bilateral air service agreements – instead of multilateral air service agreements,” he said. 

The MWTI oversees aviation policies for the Samoa Government. 

Earlier this month, Talofa Airways filed an “emergency exemption” with the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) – to continue operating in and out of American Samoa – as a result of the Samoa government’s pulling out of the multi-nation open-sky agreement. The request was granted, said the CEO. 

He said the MALIAT is a multilateral air services agreement with eight states as signatories: NZ (depository), US, Singapore, Dubai, Chile, Tonga, Cook Is and Samoa.

“Australia and Fiji, which are some of Samoa’s major markets, are not members of MALIAT.” 

According to Magele, Samoa has existing bilateral air service agreements with NZ and Tonga, which the MALIAT had superseded.  

“The MALIAT is an old air service agreement and Samoa now prefers to use bilateral air service agreements instead of multilateral air service agreements.   

“Before the MALIAT, air services to American Samoa, Hawaii and Las Angeles were conducted under a comity and reciprocity arrangement and currently a draft air service agreements from the U.S. is being vetted by the Government.” 

Furthermore, Magele said the air service agreements are State-to-State agreements, to enable national airlines of a State to engage in scheduled air services, and without an air service agreements between Samoa and another State destination, there can be no scheduled air services.  

“As Samoa’s national carrier, Samoa Airways was aware of the withdrawal from March 2018, and which had become effective March 2019.  Air New Zealand is the national carrier for New Zealand and has been made aware by its Government of Samoa’s imminent withdrawal from the MALIAT.” 

Magele said Samoa and the US can re-use the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) principles of comity and reciprocity to enable flights to American Samoa.  

“Talofa Air has recently received approval from the US Authorities to continue its flights until a new ASA is finalized between Samoa and the US.” 

This week the USDOT  advised US carriers holding blanket open-skies route authority that Samoa will be removed from the Department’s list of open skies agreements currently being applied. 

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