Samoa Airways' Malindo lease extended
The Samoa Airways wet lease of a Malindo Air plane, due to expire in February, will be extended again until May, the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Selafi Purcell, confirmed.
In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Lautafi said a new clause in the extended lease includes a provision that allows the national carrier can pull out before May if they find another aircraft.
With the worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, he said negotiations for a modern and cheaper aircraft has been challenging. The Boeing Max models were grounded in March following crashes in Indonesia and Africa.
The Minister added that despite the costly wet lease that Samoa Airways has it is the only option available considering the Boeing grounding.
Given the national airline has only four months to seal another deal on an aircraft, Lautafi said they are looking for a similar model that is newer at an affordable price.
“We have the Malindo and the next option if we can’t find that newer plane we would have to look at a 10 year old plane but it would require a lot of maintenance,” he said.
“We have to look at all of that and balance it out. Those are our options…”
Samoa Airways had been scheduled to take receipt of a new Boeing 737-Max 9 in March for a period of five years just before the grounding took effect.
Lautafi reiterated the impact of the grounding on Samoa.
He said efforts are being made by the national carrier to find another plane but aircraft companies are holding on to their planes in a market that has been made more competitive by the grounding. Following the Boeing grounding leasing rates for aircraft have spiked up to 40 per cent, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The problem he said, is the Malindo Airline also has their own terms on the lease and had only recently agreed to let local air hostesses work on the plane.
According to Lautafi it was always the airline's intention to promote local staff and the company.
“We had also wanted to use our own pilot to captain the plane but Malindo insists they captain it while our own can be the co-pilot.”
The Minister could not say how much less the national carrier has to pay for the lease considering now that they don’t have to accommodate the Malaysian staff.
Asked about the possibility of looking at an Airbus model, Lautafi said any change would come with a high cost.
He explained the switch will mean the whole staff will have to be retrained on the Airbus manual including the pilots and engineers.
In August last year the Samoa Airways extended the wet lease with Malindo for six months.