Minister stands by Cabinet decision
The Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, has defended Cabinet’s decision to hand the operation of Fagali’i Airport back to the Samoa Airports Authority (S.A.A.).
During an interview with the Samoa Observer, the Minister also revealed that Polynesian Limited, which has been running the airport, is reluctant to let the facility go.
According to the Minister, Cabinet advised Polynesian Limited last year that it was giving them 12 months to process the handing over of the Fagali’i Airport to S.A.A.
He said the Government’s main concern is to ensure safety of travellers.
“The Government is very concerned about the security and safety of the airport at Fagali’I,” he Papali’i.
“If it was domestic flight (at Fagali’i) it would be okay. But it is an international airport and it has to adhere to international regulations.
“The Airport Authority's main concern is the safety and security of the travelling public. If anything happens, the Airport Authority will get the blame. So we want to ensure that security and safety regulations are complied with.”
The Minister also revealed that Polynesian Limited wants to hang on to the facility because it is generating them much-needed revenue.
“The claims that they will lose revenue is not true, actually it’s getting more revenue from passengers. The airport is only a percentage of what they earn,” the Minister said.
“There is only one other airline that is leasing at the airport but most of their daily earning is from the daily flights so I don’t see the logic in that. At the end of the day, safety and security comes first.”
Contacted for a comment, the Interim Chairman of Samoa Airways, Tuia Paepae Letoa, concurred that safety is a priority.
He said Cabinet has already made its decision on the future of the airport and the airline is working on handing over the facility. Tuia did not want to discuss the issue further.
According to the Polynesian Airline (Investments) Ltd Annual report in 2014, the company’s main source of income was the airport facilities charge (A.F.C.).
The company’s other sources of income include rental of building spaces at the Airport terminal building, landing and parking fees for aircraft and advertising fees using the company’s premises.