Samoa Airways staff optimistic despite uncertainty

The coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic has left the aviation sector in tatters, resulting in aviation companies suffering massive losses and laying off thousands of workers.

The national carrier, Samoa Airways, has not been spared by the virus’ global onslaught, forcing the airline to stand-down local staff as international traveller numbers plummeted, to directly impact the airline.

Currently, all Samoa Airways employees have not been laid off from the lockdown.

They are still on the company's payroll despite half of the employees staying home on Fridays when flights merely operate.

Crucially, the airline's woes have not affected staff members, Elena Soliola, Hatessa Mateo, Grace Angel Ailao and Victoria Leota.

Like their other colleagues, they have not been laid off by the airline management, but are just waiting to resume work and have not given up hope on Samoa Airways returning to the sky. 

“It’s all about being patient as everything has subsided from how it used to be, and trying to get used to these changes until the time comes for everything to go back to normal,” says Mrs. Soliola, who works as a Traffic Supervisor with Samoa Airways. 

“We’ll have to wait for when the flights are back to the norm and we’ll get everyone back on track as no one has been laid off which is what we’re thankful for.”

To cope with the lockdown, Mrs. Soliola is looking at the bright side of the global pandemic, that is spending more time with her family and no work-related stress.

And while the payments she currently receives don't go far enough to pay the bills, she understands the complex challenges that Samoa Airways and other airlines throughout the world currently face. 

“We’re at least grateful to remain in our jobs for the time being because we’re positive that God is with us and everything will be back to normal,” she added.

Ms. Mateo of Fagaloa and Vaivase-Uta who has been employed at Samoa Airways for two years, and as frontline workers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, faced greater infection risks but she firmly believed that her faith in God protected her.

“I guess I just had so much confidence in my job and kept my prayers, that’s why I was never scared of any danger from the virus,” she said.

But as her time at home extends, she continues to be challenged by her dwindling cash savings, as she ponders if applying for another job is an option she should consider.

However, she loves working for the airline and any thoughts of leaving are quickly extinguished. And she also has family and relatives who are still employed or rely on the family’s plantation for food, consequently, she tells herself that there is nothing to worry about.

“It’s all about patience. I’m positive that we won’t remain in this situation and we’ll leave everything to God,” she said.

For Ms. Ailao, who hails from Falelatai and has been with Samoa Airways for two years and eight months, she is thankful for more time to spend with family, and getting back to her roots by returning to their plantations as their main source of food.

“My message to those who are experiencing the same impact with their jobs from the lockdown is to go back to the old Samoan ways of earning, farming and selling,” she added.

She is also confident that the challenges that the airline currently faces will be over and normal operations will return.

Like Ms. Ailao, Ms. Leota of Magiagi still has family who are employed so there is less pressure on her to consider other forms of employment.

"Though I am trying to adapt to the no money in the pocket most of the time, I am still happy I get to experience a differnet lifestyle from what I used to experience while working day and night," she said.

"I now remember what a night feels like in my own family while when I was working normally, I barely made it home each days."

She is looking forward to the return to normalcy and the resumption of operations for Samoa Airways.

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