Apia-Nadi closure a spur for negotiations: P.M.
The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, said the Government's move to close the Apia-Nadi flight route is designed to bring Samoa and Fiji Airways to the negotiating table.
Last week Cabinet endorsed a move by the Government to close the Apia-Nadi flight route, as it moved to promote the use of Samoa Airways for passengers travelling between Samoa and Fiji.
The decision was revealed in a confidential Cabinet paper, FK(20)6 obtained by the Weekend Observer.
Tuilaepa told the Government-owned newspaper Savali that the decision by the Cabinet was to promote proactive talks between the two airlines and revive discussions about a code-sharing agreement settled many years ago but which was never implemented.
“In essence, Cabinet’s intervention is to ensure that the discussions resume between the management of Fiji Airways and Samoa Airways, especially when we are facing daunting challenges with reduced travels as a result of the coronavirus restricting travel opportunities between Samoa and the outside world," he said.
“Fiji is one of the gateways into Samoa."
In 2017, Fiji Airways and Samoa Airways signed a memorandum of understanding (M.O.U.) to share commercial strategies and knowledge.
According to the Cabinet directive policies for flights to Fiji involve: Closing the Apia-Nadi and Nadi-Apia route; routing travel to Fiji via Auckland using Samoa Airways; and redirecting travel to Samoa from Hawaii to arrive first in Pago Pago before arriving in Apia.
The Prime Minister told Savali that the state-owned airline had previously had sour outcomes from cooperative agreements with other airlines.
“We also have to remember that we had bad experiences in similar arrangements with [defunct Australian airline] Anset and Virgin Airlines years ago, so we want to make sure that these incidents of the past will not be repeated," he said.
In 2017 Cabinet unanimously decided not to renew a joint venture with Virgin Airlines.
At the time, Tuilaepa said the Cabinet has decided that the joint venture no longer aligned with the Government's strategic direction.
“This can’t continue on especially when the airfares continue to increase and the hotels are complaining that there are not enough tourists coming to Samoa," he said.
Following the dissolution of the arrangement, Samoa Airways was launched in November 2017.
The Prime Minister told Savali, that Cabinet’s priority was to bring the two airlines to the negotiating table to resume productive talks.
“We are only a one work-horse airline, Fiji has many," he said.
"So it is quite possible that Fiji is not treating our Airline on an equal basis.
"And we want to ensure that if the agreement does not work, then we move ahead and reschedule our routes."