A thousand Samoans to fly home in time for Christmas
Air New Zealand expects four repatriation flights scheduled from Auckland to Apia through year's end to carry full planeloads of passengers, bringing more than 1200 Samoans home in time for Christmas.
The Government announced earlier this month that four flights dedicated to returning Samoan citizens to their home soil will run on Fridays: 30 October, 13 November, 4 December and 11 December.
The first of the final flights of the year, this Friday, will bring the total number of Samoans repatriated by the airline to 2500.
A spokesperson for the airline confirmed it hopes to carry a full passenger load on each flight, or 302 passengers, barring last-minute changes.
In addition to the Auckland-Apia flights, a direct flight from Los Angeles on Friday 27 November is expected to bring another 302 passengers into the country, while a proposed flight from Fiji is scheduled for Friday 4 December.
Unlike previous repatriation flights, the schedule for incoming planeloads of passengers has not been able to have been spread out every fortnight (the length of the mandated quarantine stay).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains a register of all people trying to return to Samoa and has charge of the repatriation flights.
On Tuesday an email to the Ministry’s Chief Executive Officer asking how many people remain on that list did not receive a response.
The Samoa Observer also enquired as to how many more hotels or accommodation sites would be used to accommodate people in quarantine facilities, and who will be replacing Ulu Bismarck Crawley as chair of the National Emergency Operations Centre after his resignation from public service last week.
The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has said the upcoming flights will be the last for the year and has yet to indicate whether more flights will return Samoan citizens and residents home in 2021.
A further 76 people were registered for the chartered flight from Los Angeles but the plane, an Air New Zealand Boeing 787, does not have space to accommodate them.
They will instead be able to travel home via New Zealand before the end of the year through the other four flights.