Virgin renews Australia-Samoa flight route

While Virgin Airlines is cutting back on international routes amid financial turmoil, the continuation of its services to Samoa appears likely to continue as the Australian carrier renewed a 12-month license to fly between Australia and Samoa. 

The Minister for Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papalii Niko Lee Hang, said the agreement between the two countries will continue to allow the Australian-based airline to fly to Samoa. 

“Despite what we want to do to stop the Virgin coming, but we cannot do that as it is an agreement," he said.

“Otherwise Australia would not allow our plane to land there because we have two flights to Sydney and Brisbane. So if we stop Virgin Airline, they will stop us. 

“It’s to do with business.” 

Virgin Australia recently posted an A$350 million loss and announced plans to reduce the frequency of its short-haul international flights.

Relations between the carrier and the Government of Samoa have been strained in recent years after a joint venture was hastily scrapped in 2017. The same year it was reported a plan by Virgin Australia to service the Faleolo-Auckland route was rejected by the Government. 

Papali'i said Samoans in Australia support Samoa’s national carrier and it cuts the traffic from Brisbane and Sydney. 

“I believe the Virgin don’t carry most passengers especially our own people, maybe the tourists are using Virgin airline because of the connecting flights, but Samoan people living in Sydney and Brisbane are supporting our airline because it’s good for them, otherwise they won’t get the cheap fares that they are travelling on," he said. 

“Otherwise Virgin from Australia will keep hiking their fares and there’s nothing we can do. Now we have our airline, and we may be losing money because of what we are trying to do to help our people travel but eventually we will get there.” 

Samoa Airways recently renewed a "wet lease" with Malaysian-based carrier Malindo Air for a 737-800. 

But Papalii said the Government hopes to get another plane when they have gained some stable financial income from the current plane. 

“Cabinet is discussing another plane, but depending on the finances, we just don’t want to rush and get another plane while we are trying to set up this one," he said. 

“Hopefully we get money to get another plane. 

“We are hoping to find new routes if we get another plane. We cannot meet all the routes now with only one plane. 

"We have plans to have direct flights to Los Angeles but we don’t have a plane to cater for that, and the smaller islands like Tonga we have to fly to New Zealand first, Cook Islands, so we want to set up those routes once we get a new plane.” 

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