Chartered flights to bring students home

The Government has released a schedule for specially chartered flights to bring home Samoan students stranded overseas during the global coronavirus pandemic at a cost of more than $400,000. 

The four scheduled flights are to be spread over the next three months and students on specially chartered Air New Zealand flights will have to pay their own way home, offsetting the Government's expenditure. 

They will mostly cater for students in foreign countries who have completed their studies, students from Tokelau awaiting to return home and repatriating the body of a student who passed away in Australia. 

The flight schedule is outlined in a press release outlining changes to state of emergency orders, issued on Friday.

The Government has confirmed funding the flights to bring home students from Australia and Japan will cost some NZD$233,000 (SAT$409,859) and has been endorsed by the Cabinet. 

Students currently in Australia will fly in less than three weeks on a plane departing from Sydney on 2 October. 

At the end of the month, 30 October, another repatriation flight from New Zealand will touch down at Faleolo Airport.

At the end of the following month, 28 November, another chartered flight will depart from Los Angeles to repatriate citizens who are currently in Europe or America and do not have the means to return home. 

That flight will be followed by another from New Zealand. 

The Government also approved a plan to return Samoan workers who had been in Tokelau working on building contracts but had now requested to return home.

The Government has also approved the repatriation of Tokelauan students from New Zealand, who will land in Samoa before departing for their homeland. 

Another eight people will be flying from Samoa to Nadi, Fiji on a chartered flight operated by Talofa Airways.

The roundtrip flight from Fiji, will transport six American nationals to American Samoa and two from American Samoa. Two Samoan nationals will also be traveling to Samoa.

The plane’s pilot and crew will be quarantined upon arrival after the round trip.

A number of deceased citizens will also be repatriated to Samoa for their funeral services, including: Elisapeta I. Tanuvasa, Aipopo Vaisola, Fuamatu Suafai, Vaetasi Mati, Asoono Ropeti, Ken Lafo, Etuati Jr Etuati.

In recent weeks on his programmes, the Prime Minister has said that, despite the risk that comes with bringing students home, it would be impossible to turn a deaf ear to the students’ pleas.

Samoa’s borders have been shut to incoming passengers for six months with Cabinet approving exemptions only for specially permitted repatriation flights. 


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