Spirit of Savai’i takes to the skies
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA: 18 June 2012: Samoa Air’s Spirit of Savai’i officially started its service between Upolu and Savai’i today after the airline was officially launched at the Fagali’i airport last Saturday.
Today, Samoa Air’s first flight took off from Fagali’i to Maota airport in Savaii before continuing on to Asau. The brainchild of former Polynesian Airlines captain Chris Langton will serve five flights a day, seven days a week. Langton is grateful to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi and Cabinet for their support.
Launched by the Prime Minister last Saturday, Tuilaepa said that “Cabinet has cancelled all fees relating to airlines operating in the country.”
Tuilaepa said the Samoa Air owner Christopher Langton approached him with the idea of opening the service between the two islands again.
“I thought Chris was one of the many 20 people that came to me with the same idea years back, so I said go and prepare something for me,” said Tuilaepa.
Chris returned to Tuilaepa with concrete results which impressed the Prime Minister. However, the only obstacle was the “mountain of Acts and Bills” which the operator had to satisfy first before launching a business. Cabinet addressed the matter and resulted in abolishing all the Acts relating to the operation of a local airline.
However, Chris had a new problem, the Polynesia management would not allow Samoa Air to utilise it’s facility at Faleolo airport and Tuilepa again came to the rescue.
He (Tuilaepa) asked the Polynesia Airlines management to concentrate on the international routes and allow Samoa Air to use of it’s facility to serve the local community hence the launch on Saturday.
Langton thanked Cabinet especially the Prime Minister for their support and had promised a good service to the country.
Abolishing of all duty fees paid by any airlines operating in the country is labeled by a senior official at the Ministry of Finance as a “very poor decision”.
The official who wished not to be named spoke to Talamua saying Cabinet should have taken time to research their decision thoroughly. The official also believed that the decision was made in a haste. He believed that Cabinet should not abolish the Acts to suit a business deal but should have negotiated a good deal with the company. Asked how much duty it cost Samoa Air, the official could not give an exact amount but said “a lot”.
The official told Talamua that while airlines service is an asset to the country’s economy, it does not render such the abolishment of relevant laws. He believes that a business person with interest to operate a boat service between the two islands could also ask to abolish the relevant Acts just to get the green light for the operation.
Samoa Air is a privately owned company and unlike government owned assets that are operated under government budget, abolishing the Acts is a great help to the private operator.
Despite the officials remarks, the public is already praising the service which some believed is long overdue. The health sector is most grateful as the service is needed for emergency cases.
With the return trips to and from Fagali’i and Maota for only $100 while the Fagalii to Asau route for $190.00, the Spirit of Savai’i is certainly lifting spirits around the country. Samoa Air awaits the arrival of its second aircraft, the Spirit of Upolu.