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Samoa Airways, Fiji Airways negotiate

Samoa Airways and Fiji Airways have started negotiations about "partnership" and "codeshare arrangements."

This was confirmed Fiji Airways after news broke that the Government of Samoa was looking close flights between Samoa and Fiji, which are being operated by the Fijian airline.

A leaked Cabinet Paper published by the Samoa Observer on Friday revealed Cabinet had endorsed the closure of the Apia-Nadi route and hoped to get more passengers on the Samoa Airways flights out of the country.

In a media statement, a Fiji Airways spokesperson said that the matter has been referred to the Fijian Government.

“Discussions have taken place between Samoa Airways and Fiji Airways Executives on partnership and codeshare arrangements,” the statement said.

“However, the matter of flights between Fiji and Samoa concerns the existing Air Services Agreement between the two countries. As such, Fiji Airways has referred the matter to the Fijian Government for their attention.”

Ministry of Finance Chief Executive Officer Leasiosiofa'asisina Oscar Malielegaoi, said a Samoa Airways delegation is currently in Fiji meeting with counterparts on the matter.

A date for the closure the Apia to Nadi route, which had been monopolized by Fiji Airways, has not been set yet, and the talks in Fiji may well reverse any such decision.

In 2017, the two airlines signed a memorandum of understanding (M.O.U.) to share commercial strategies and cooperate on learning from the 65 year old airline’s experiences.

“It’s better to partner up than to fight; no one wins in a fight,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Viljoen told the Samoa Observer at the time.

He said he wanted to see the Pacific region full of locally owned, not foreign airlines successfully filling airspace.

Under the partnership, Fiji Airways was to help Samoa Airways launch its services between Apia and Auckland, and Apia and Sydney by sharing sales, operations, commercial and maintenance infrastructure.

“Under the M.O.U., there will be specific routes like Samoa to New Zealand and Australia that will be solely managed by Samoa Airways and other routes which both airlines will jointly manage through codesharing and interlining,” Samoa Airways Chair Feesago Siaosi Fepuleai said at the time.

The agreement was also intended to help open Samoa Airways up to the direct flights from Nadi to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Singapore.  

Fiji and Samoa joined arms just months after the announcement that a joint venture with Virgin Australia would be discontinued in December 2017.

The airline had to cancel the five times a week service between Apia and Auckland, making Samoa Airways in partnership with Fiji Airways, and Air New Zealand the only airlines on the route.

In September last year Fiji Airways and Qantas, which owns 46 per cent of the national carrier, were embroiled in a battle over who controls flights between Fiji and Australia.

Qantas had applied for a daily service between Sydney and Nadi, just nine months after launching four direct flights a week on the same route.

Mr. Viljoen called the move alarming, and accused the airline of flipping from “ally to adversary.”

“It is certainly alarming when your major shareholder and long-standing commercial partner all of a sudden becomes your major competitor,” Mr Viljoen said in a statement.

“Qantas’ sudden flip from ally to adversary has been very damaging for Fiji Airways. It is competing aggressively, actively directing passengers onto Qantas and Jetstar services.”

The two have had a codeshare partnership for 17 years. In response, a Qantas spokesperson said the decision would “boost visitor numbers.”

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