PHOTO: Samoa Airways Acting Chairman, Tuiā Paepae Letoa Photo: Rula Sua Vaai/Talamua Media
By Rula Su’a – Vaai
APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 29 APRIL 2019: The Acting Chairman of the national carrier, Samoa Airways, Tuiā Paepae Letoa would not be drawn into the reasons why the Airlines Chairman, Fe’esago Siaosi Fepulea’i resigned from his position last Friday.
“I have no idea why he resigned,” Tuiā told Talamua this morning. “I was shocked when I was served with the Cabinet Directive (FK) that I am to act as Acting Chairman for Samoa Airways,” he said.
Fe’esago – a long serving diplomat and official for the Samoan Government, has been Chairman of Polynesian Airlines when it was flying mainly to American Samoa. He continued as Chairman when the airline changed its branding as the national carrier and took the bold move to reconnect its’ international routes using its own (leased) aircrafts to boost tourism and provide a catalyst to cheaper airfares.
His resignation is poses a lot questions, especially at a critical time of the Airlines expansion now hampered by the grounding of Max 8 aircrafts. Talamua sources say Fe’esago’s resignation was a personal matter between him and the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, Samoa Airways Acting Vice Chairman, Tuiā Paepae Letoa does not know when a new (leased) aircraft can be obtained.
The airline was supposed to deliver a new leased aircraft on 1 April 2019. But a week before, the Max 8 aircrafts were grounded following the Ethiopian Airlines crash at the end of March, killing all onboard.
Samoa Airways problems were compounded, when the aircraft it was using on lease was needed by its Italian owners at the same time leaving the national carrier with no aircraft and upsetting its whole schedule.
It was when Melindo Airways from Malaysia came in and is currently operating on a “short term lease,” according to Tuiā.
“I cannot reveal how much the lease is, but given a short period of time the company had to look for an aircraft, I take my hat off, because it was not an easy task.”
According to Tuia, one of the major challenges now facing the Company is the grounding of all Max 8 aircrafts that has increased the cost of aircraft leases.
He said Samoa Airways is currently negotiating with overseas airline companies for an aircraft and refrained from naming which overseas airlines.
The Samoa Airways Board of Director includes, Tuiā Paepae Letoa, Vui Seinafolava Laniselota Lameko, Nuusa Berger Amituanai, Onosefulu Fuata’i, Anne Aiolupotea, and Tusa Misi Tupuola.