Airport shutdown affects business

From frequent flyers, to taxi drivers, to local shop owners a wide range of people around Fagalii Airport are preparing for the inevitable impact of its New Year's Day closure

The Fagali’i International Airport will shut down on the final day of the year, 31 December, the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, previously announced.  The Ministry of Police will take over the facility on the 1 January, 2020. 

The Fagalii Airport is used to travel between American Samoa and Samoa.

Papali’i said the Faleolo Airport will be assuming the operations Fagalii Airport had been carrying out. It has been certified and it meets international aviation requirements.

Local businesses projected varying impacts of Thursday's shutdown. 

A taxi driver of the Fagalii Airport Taxi Stand, Faamanu Kuresa from Puipaa said his future livelihood is now insecure. 

"This is what was feeding my family, putting my children in school and put food on the table," he said.

"On a good day I would make about $100, and about $300-$400 on a weekly basis, but now I'm not sure how I'm gonna go about with my taxi."

Shop owners opposite the road from the Fagalii Airport displayed mixed emotions when asked about the closing of the airport.

One shop owner did not want to comment telling the Samoa Observer that it will not make a difference as the airport will be closed despite their comments.

Another, 69-year-old Epenesa Vili, whose store has been open since 1994 says she does not rely on the airport.

"The airport has been shut before and my shop was never closed, unlike those other shops, so I don't think it will be any different this time for us," she said.

"There are others who pass by here a lot, from Vailele and Letogo and here in Fagalii, but who knows."

For frequent flyers, such as Solia Soifua Solia, he says the closing won't pose a significant problem, with the exception of additional costs of transportation once they get in from Pago Pago.

The 72-year-old from American Samoa says he travels to Upolu every six months to visit family. 

"It's not a big change but it was definitely be further away for us now is that we will be landing far away from town," he said.

"Before we would just come here to Fagalii and it's good it's closer to town and families. Now we have to catch a taxi, which is about $70 tala from the airport to town."

Another frequent flyer, Viena Mamea from Lalomanu, says it is so much easier for people from her side to come straight to Fagalii than to go all the way to Faleolo..

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