New date for Savai'i flights as Samoa Airways hits back at critics
Samoa Airways will launch its flights to Savai’i on Friday 9 October, to coincide with the White Sunday weekend, while hitting back at criticism of a previous postponement of flights on the route.
The new launch date was announced in a press statement issued by the airline on Thursday evening in which it took issue with criticism of the past postponement of scheduled flights.
The President of the Samoa Hotels Association, Tupa'i Saleimoa Vaai, expressed disappointment about Samoa Airways decision to postpone its flights and doubted the publicly stated reason for doing so: a lack of consumer demand.
Flights had been scheduled to take off on 11 September but were cancelled by the airline which cited low customer demand.
But Samoa Airways responded to the comments, which were carried in Thursday’s edition of the Observer.
“The most difficult part of their launching [the flights has been a] lack of communication,” said Tupa’i who is also a member of the Savaii Samoa Tourism Association.
“They went out and launched the flights without talking to the [tourism] industry [in Savaii] or even have a marketing strategy given it is a business," Tupa'i said.
But in its statement the national carrier said it was taken aback by the comments.
It said it had a close working relationship with both the Samoa Hotels Association (S.H.A.), the Savai’i Samoa Tourism Association (S.S.T.A.) and the Tourism Taskforce Team (T.T.T.) which oversees both.
“Samoa Airways is surprised with the comments considering that we have a very close working relationship with S.T.A. and T.T.T,” the statement said.
“The President is part of our Tourism Board and both SHA and SSTA are part of the Tourism Taskforce Team (T.T.T.)”
The Chief Executive Officer of Samoa Airways, Tupuivao Seiuli Tuala, said:
“Through these meetings Samoa Airways have communicated the launch of its Savai’i services. There was never a lack of communication on any part from the airline”
The national carrier said that, in recent weeks, it had worked with the S.T.A. to improve its communication of the launch of the Savai’i service through media including radio, television and newspapers.
The intention was to develop a centralised strategy for communications, the airline said.
“Samoa Airways is grateful to our Tourism Authority team for their efforts and support from the industry stakeholders as S.H.A. and S.S.T.A. for the Savai’i services to become a reality,” said Seiuli.
Samoa Airways current one-way fare from Upolu to Savai’i, exclusive of taxes, is $89, “to support the cost of flying a return service,” the statement said.
“Operating cost for any flight is not cheap. The length of the flight does not change the price of fuel or airport and passenger charges,” Seiuli said.
“That cost is spread over the number of seats on an aircraft, which is far less than seats on the ferry”.
The airline said it looks forward to welcoming people on board its flights to and from Savai’i and reiterated the support its plans had received from Savai’i hoteliers who were offering corresponding weekend packages in an attempt to bolster inter-island tourism to offset the industry downturn.