APIA: MONDAY 18 MARCH 2013: Samoa Air’s inaugural flight to American Samoa did not take place last Saturday as scheduled.
A delay of a week has been decided, Chief Executive Officer, Chris Langton told Talamua today.
After discussions with Government, they decided to allow time for everybody to settle down – for officials Customs, Immigration, quarantine at both ends of the inter-Samoa flights to adjust,” Langton said.
“So just to give everybody time to be comfortable we decided to put back the start by a week,” he said.
It involves Government officials to set themselves up at Maota Airport, Savai’i Island, to process what will be international flights.
Government officials in American Samoa will need to prepare themselves similarly.
When Samoa Air received approval from the United States’ Federal Aviation Authority to fly to American Samoa, the first flight was scheduled for last Saturday – from Maota to Pago Pago International Airport.
The inaugural flight is now scheduled for March 26.
But Langton said they can do charters for American Samoa now.
As well as Maota-Pago Pago flights Samoa Air also announced ones between Pago Pago and Fagali’i airport five times weekly between Pago and Fagali’i on Saturdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays Samoa time.
The Pago-Fagali’i route might not be opened to Samoa Air however with objections from rival Polynesian Airlines highly likely.
“They should ask us first if they can land at Fagali’i for Pago,” said Chief Executive Officer, of Polynesian Airlines, Taua Fatu Tielu, today.
Polynesian owns Fagali’i Airport.
Samoa Air has permission to use Fagali’i for flights to Savai’i Island, said Taua, but not for flights to Pago Pago.
Nor have they asked to, he said.
“Should a request be put forth, it will be up to the board of Polynesian Airlines to decide if permission is granted of not,” said Taua.
If permission is granted conditions must come into it, like Samoa Air be allowed to land at Fagali’i for Pago only on certain days, a maximum number of flights a day.
“Otherwise we’ll be shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Fagali’i is crucial to the survival of Polynesian, said Taua.
The airport was closed for several years.
It was re-opened in 2009 to give Polynesian an advantage because Fagali’i is closer to town and to American Samoa than Faleolo airport.
The truth is if that hadn’t been done Polynesian would have collapsed by competition at the time from South Pacific Express and Inter Island Airways and their bigger planes, said Taua.
Samoa Air started life as an airline June last year with domestic flights – between Savai’i and Upolu islands.
But from that start it has planned for services to go international.
The airline says it has obtained Cabotage rights from the U.S. Department of Transport to fly domestic flights between the islands of American Samoa.
The American Samoa government strongly supported Samoa Air in that because there is no air link to the Manu’a group.
The airline is also in its final stages of approval for services from Samoa to both Niuatoputapu and Vavau with extensions of service to Niuafoo Island under an agreement with Tonga.