The wet lease on the only Samoa Airways aircraft expired yesterday and the aircraft was returned today
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 01 APRIL 2019: It is desperate times at Samoa Airways as its only aircraft leased from Italy had to be returned this morning leaving the national carrier with no aircraft and forcing it to reissue travellers’ tickets on competing airlines.
The Minister in charge of the airline, Lautafi Selafi Purcell told Talamua today that they are speeding up negotiations so that when the replacement aircraft from Malaysia arrives Thursday this week, it will be able to fly to New Zealand.
“The contract with the Italian company that the Samoa Airways leased the Max 8 aircraft ended yesterday and it flew back to Italy this morning as we could not continue our lease,” said Lautafi.
He further explained that they tried to extend the lease until the replacement aircraft from Malaysia arrives this Thursday, but the Italian company demanded the use of the aircraft after all other company aircraft were grounded following the incident in Ethiopia.
With the aircraft gone, Lautafi said the Government is working around the clock to find a solution so Samoa Airways travel would not be disrupted further.
Malindo Aircraft Awaits Confirmation to Fly Between Samoa & New Zealand
The Malaysian aircraft Malindo to be leased by Samoa Airways for six months is awaiting confirmation from New Zealand for it to be able to land there.
Lautafi told Talamua that Samoa is speeding up negotiations that normally take 3 months.
“We have asked New Zealand to assist with our request. With Australia there is no problem as Malindo flies to Australia, but not New Zealand hence the negotiations,” said Lautafi.
He said one of the options was to charter a flight to accommodate travellers who have already booked with Samoa Airways.
“We try to reduce the disruption from the time Samoa Airways left and tomorrow we are looking at ways to accommodate people who have already booked their travel with either Air New Zealand or the Virgin Blue,” said Lautafi.
He emphasized the importance of reducing disruption, “but the fact is the whole world is experiencing the same dilemma.”
He could not disclose the cost Malindo has been leased for but said he has been given assurance that all will go well once the aircraft is on land.
Plans With Fiji Airways On Hold
Samoa is supposed to get another aircraft in August from Fiji, however, that plan is also on hold due to the grounding of the Max 9 aircrafts.
Lautafi said Fiji has confirmed that they need the aircraft since the grounding of some of their Max 9 aircrafts.
“No one predicted these things to happen, and for some countries, all 50 aircrafts have been grounded, now imagine the dilemma faced by travellers all over the world,” he said.
Lautafi is not sure when these aircrafts will be allowed to fly again but hopes the investigations will provide a solution much safer for the travelers.
“This is the reality of aviation and whatever happens, safety is given priority
Fares Expected To Increase
With the absence of Samoa Airways, Lautafi believes this will have an impact on air fares between Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
“Fares are expected to go up again because of the traveling demands but also because they have the upper hand on the market now,” the Minister said.