Samoa Airways defends taking bookings
Samoa Airways has cancelled all flights until July to comply with border closures, despite previously selling flights in May and June even though the airline currently lacks a plane.
The national carrier's Chief Executive Officer, Seiuli Alvin Tuala, said bookings remained open because of the region’s border closures.
In the countries to which Samoa Airways flies (Australia and New Zealand) border closures have not been scheduled for lifting.
In Samoa, when Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi extended the state of emergency until May 2, he said the National Emergency Operations Centre and Cabinet would review circumstances before lifting any regulations, including those relating to the nation's borders.
In response to articles in the Samoa Observer that customers had made bookings and were expecting to fly in or out of Samoa in May despite Samoa Airways likely being restricted from doing so nor having an aircraft, Seiuli said that as well as cancelling flights for May and June, the airline is prepared to continue to cancel services scheduled for July onwards.
Seiuli’s statement says the cancellations would further protect Samoa from the coronavirus. But with no confirmed or tentatively scheduled dates for airports in Australia and New Zealand to reopen, he did not elaborate on how further cancelling flights would protect the airline too.
In compensation for unusable flight bookings, the airline will continue to provide only either free rebooking of flights or vouchers for Samoa Airways to be used at a later date.
“All customers whose flights are affected from March through June are subject to waivers that are already in place and this information is provided on our website,” a statement from Seiuli released on Tuesday evening reads.
“Samoa Airways continues to support our customers and keep them informed with up to date information regarding travel notices - it is for this reason why the official Samoa Airways website will remain active.”
Seiuli's statement also said he thought it was important to note that other airlines had also continued to sell services to and from Apia, with some selling tickets as early as June.
At the beginning of April, the Minister in charge of Samoa Airways, Lautafi Fio Purcell, confirmed the airline was ending its lease of a plane from Malindo Air, which flew out of Samoan shores days later.
Lautafi said he was in negotiations with Qantas to secure a plane in the interim, and with an unnamed company in Singapore for a longer-term arrangement.
Seiuli's statement confirmed there is as yet no conclusion to the company's negotiations to secure an aircraft but that they should be concluded by the time borders are reopened.
(Samoa Airways had previously negotiated to lease a Boeing 737 MAX model before the entire fleet of models was grounded due to safety concerns).
On Facebook, Samoa Airways announced the cancellations of its May and June services. Comments on the post include accusations that the airline should not have released its aircraft and continued to take bookings.
One Facebook user accused the airline of taking customers' money in full knowledge of the fact that they returned their only plane.
Meanwhile, the Government has approved for Air New Zealand to fly another plane load of people out of Samoa on Friday 1 May, adding that, as with a previous emergency flight earlier this month, demand for seats far exceeds availability.