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Samoa Airways reveals plan for new aircraft

The Samoa Government is exploring its options to get an aircraft from the United States and extend the lease of the Malindo Air-owned Boeing 737 after its six-month contract expires.

The Minister of Commerce Industry and Labour and Public Enterprise, Lautafi Selafi Purcell, revealed the Government’s plan in an interview with the Samoa Observer.

He said the aircraft from the U.S. would potentially be a Boeing 737-800 from Air Lease Corporation.

No final decision has been made on the grounded Boeing MAX 9 aircraft, he added, until investigations by American aviation authorities are complete. But in the interim period, Samoa’s national carrier is looking at its options to ensure services continue to the travelling public. 

“Looking at the situation it’s a waiting game. We are looking at those options on continuing the lease with Malindo and the other is a new Boeing 737-800 aircraft. 

“It’s a newer one from the company that we were going to hire the MAX 9 from, but an 800 model. Samoa Airways is working on analysis, costs and all those things in relation to those options,” he said. 

The Minister did not give details of the options they are looking at, saying they will be disclosed after a report is prepared and submitted to the Cabinet for its consideration. 

Lautafi was also asked about the financial state of the airline, considering the grounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft and future plans for a new aircraft.  

In response, he gave the reassurance that the airline is in a financially stable condition. 

“It goes without saying that we did incur unforeseen loss because of the investigation (into Ethiopian airline crash),” said Lautafi.

“What happened was unforeseen and we had to hire another aircraft on a wet lease. 

“We had planned to bring in the (Boeing) MAX 9 on a dry-lease, meaning our people operate it from the pilot to the crew. 

“It was very difficult (for the airline), it invested in training those people and also had to re-book everyone and paid extra costs when (Boeing) MAX 9 was grounded. 

“That includes those that claimed they had to pay extra costs which is not true, the airline paid for it.

“But about that, I do not like quoting figures because there are people who understand it and I only get the bigger picture of its situation and the (financial) situation is as stable as it can be.”   

Following the abrupt grounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft around the world, Samoa Airways had to scramble to find another plane to service its Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane routes. 

The airline’s attempts to accommodate for disrupted flights and passengers meant Samoa Airways had to re-book flights for travelers for about two weeks,  before the airline secured a deal with Malaysian carrier Malindo Air to lease a Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft.

The lease with Malindo Air follows on the expiry of the lease with Italian airline NEOS on March 31 this year, with the aviation company declined a request from Samoa Airways to extend its lease. 

Minister Lautafi emphasised that safety is paramount for the Government and the Boeing MAX 9 will not be brought into the country until it is cleared by the New Zealand and Australia civil aviation authorities.  

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