The government has put its foot down in a bid to help Samoa Airways cover its initial operation costs, which reportedly includes “US$500,000” (T$1.25million) a fortnight to lease the aircraft.
According to a Cabinet paper leaked to the Sunday Samoan, all government Ministries and Corporations have been instructed to use Samoa Airways for any flights to New Zealand and Australia funded by the government.
Signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo, the Cabinet paper also strictly instructs government officials to persuade sponsors and funders of other trips to book flights from and back to Samoa with Samoa Airways.
Attempts by the Sunday Samoan to confirm reports that the Airline is paying some “US$500,000” to lease the B737 aircraft from Icelandair Group were not successful.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi referred questions to the Management of the Airline.
“To get the exact amount down to the cents, direct your questions to the C.E.O. of Samoa Airways,” he said. “That shouldn’t be hard to do.”
The Prime Minister then asked as to why the Sunday Samoan was interested in the cost of the lease.
“Your questions appear to be looking for trouble,” he said. “However if you ask, then do a follow up question, what is the usual amount of such leases, that is how you do it. But don’t just ask about our lease.”
Questions emailed to the C.E.O., Seiuli Alvin Tuala, and Marketing Manager, Dwayne Bentley, on Thursday have not been responded to at press time. A printed copy of the questions was also dropped off at the office and received by the Airline.
“I’ve been told that the airline is paying US$500,000 to lease the aircraft a fortnight. Is this true?” the questions read.
“If it is, can the airline sustain this in the long run? What are you projections in terms of profits and losses?”
The Airline was also asked about the costs of Icelandair crew and how long will they be here for?
“And who is paying for them to be here in terms of accommodation and other allowances to provide training? How much?”
On 08 November, Cabinet issued an order in a letter to all government bodies to use the airline.
The F.K. (Fa’aiuga Kapineta) became effective last month.
It was signed by Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo and titled “utilize Samoa Airways for travel paid by the government”.
According to the F.K., the Cabinet meeting held on November 7, 2017 to discussed the matter and concluded that “effective for the month of November, 2017, any government trip going through to New Zealand and Australia, paid by the government, will travel on Samoa Airways”.
This order also applies to the trips being paid by grantors/sponsors, says the F.K.
The F.K. also instructs the hospital, relating to patients taken overseas for medical checkups, to travel on Samoa Airways when they go to New Zealand.
The F.K. further orders a faster process of purchasing tickets so the airline can get paid immediately.
Samoa Airways is less than a month into its operations.
At the launch, Prime Minister Tuilaepa challenged the management of the airline to prove itself as a self-sustaining business.
“The government has not given the airline any funds to start the airline as you must run it as a business,” he said.
“You have had 12 years of running the small airline profitably so that now with the jet services - give it your best, prove that we can do this and do it well. I would urge all our people and our country to come and support your national carrier. Be proud of what Samoa can do.”
Tuilaepa also had a message for the tourism industry.
“We as a country must embrace what is ours,” he said.
“It is time that we stand up and it is time we support our own airline and support Samoa. We are at the tipping point and it’s a point that will ensure Samoa Airways grows as Samoa grows in all sectors.
“We have a beautiful country with so much to offer, we can grow and showcase the beauty of our country, our culture and our people. No other airline will do that satisfactorily on our behalf.”