It’s a positive step but caution should still be exercised

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The signing of an agreement between Polynesian Airlines and Fiji Airways on Monday is a positive step towards reviving the fortunes of Polynesian Airlines as a full international airline.

Whether the move will pay off in the long run remains to be seen but Fiji Airways has a proven record of growth and success over the years which at least provide a solid platform for Samoa to learn from and hopefully we can take that success to another level. 

But then that’s a long way away and there is plenty of hard to be done here onwards.

The fact is with the push for Polynesian Airlines, as Samoa Airways, to provide easier access for tourists to fill up Samoa’s hotels, motels and tourist accomodations; the signing is a key development in the government’s aspirations. Implemented well and with a proper business plan to guide it, this has tremendous potential to benefit our people.

We know it’s easier said than done. But we also know we don’t just need more airlines to be flying to Samoa, it would be wonderful to eventually have our own servicing key routes to and from here.

And the Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U.) signed on Monday where Samoa and Fiji agreed to jointly pursue a range of commercial opportunities and partnerships, is a key step.

Now, for the uninitiated, the M.O.U. was signed by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer for Fiji Airways, Andre Vilijoen and Polynesian Airlines Chief Executive Officer, Seiuli Alvin Tuala in the presence of the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell.

Under the proposed partnership, Fiji Airways will provide initial support to Samoa Airways to help launch its international services to and from Apia to Auckland and Sydney through the use of its established infrastructure in sales, commercial, operations and maintenance. 

It’s an exciting time for both airlines.

 “Part of this memorandum is that a commercial relationship can result from this, between Fijian Airways and Polynesian Airlines, where we will cooperate on some of the services and most importantly on how we will provide assistance in setting up the international operations,” said Mr. Vilijoen.

 “In this partnership, we are going to take 65 years of experience as Fiji Airways and we are going to assist Polynesian to get their operation up and running. There will be some services that we will provide but the objective is that as quick as possible to get Samoa Airways to be independent and self-sufficient.”

Mr. Vilijoen stressed the importance for Samoa to have its own airline.

 “This is very important strategic step for the Samoan government to control its own future. I can tell you today, we (Fiji) wouldn’t do as well as it we are, if we didn’t have our own airline.”

The government is obviously both anxious and excited about the plan, as C.E.O. Seiuli revealed.

 “We have learned a lot of lessons and I’m sure that we won’t make the same mistakes,” he said. “It’s never easy running an airline. As a country we need our own air services that will not only be affordable, but also this will enable to connect us to the world. Samoa is well placed in the Pacific.”

He said the partnership with Fiji Airways will open doors to Europe, U.S.A. and Asia through their connection with Fiji. 

“Samoa desperately needs to be in the game that Fiji has run ahead and in terms of tourism, we need this partnership. We need to bring in more tourists, we need to focus on developing tourists.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi sees the potential benefits.

“The decision by our government to pursue a commercial partnership with Fiji Airways was driven mainly by the critical need to look beyond New Zealand and Australia,” he said.

“We want to open Samoa up to the world through Fiji Airways’ long-haul network which includes direct flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore into Nadi and potential connectivity opportunities presented through its larger network with its other airline partner.”

Lastly, Tuilaepa added: “The proposed partnership between Fiji’s National Airline and our own National Airline is a testament to the strong bonds that we share as island nations in the Pacific Region and embraces our Pacific Way of doing things.”

Well that’s a fantastic plan, isn’t it? Who doesn’t get excited about that stuff?

After all, we truly believe we have a slice of paradise visitors would love to get a piece of. But they need to get here first and that’s why we need to make Samoa more accessible by way of an affordable and reliable air service. In other words, the more airlines the merrier. Besides, think about the possibility of lower airfares for our travelling public. 

How many of us are not disgusted by the current prices of one-way tickets to New Zealand and Australia today? We are in 2017 where the price of air travel has become so cheap sometimes tickets for international destinations are sold for less than $50 dollars. But here we are in Samoa paying more than $2,000 for a one-way ticket for a three-hour flight. This is absolutely ridiculous.

But with the latest development, we still need to be cautious.

We acknowledge that Seiuli has admitted Polynesian has learnt from its mistakes. That’s a good start. You see, Polynesian Airlines of the past has a very interesting history. The last time the government tried to run such a huge commercial operation with Polynesian Airlines, it nearly bankrupted the country.

We don’t want to go back to those sad days. Which is why Seiuli, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and everyone else involved must be extra cautious in terms of moving forward.

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a wonderful Wednesday, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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