Samoa bans Auck­land-Apia flights

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS -

Up to 6000 pas­sen­gers could be hit by the Samoan Gov­ern­ment's de­ci­sion to deny Vir­gin Aus­tralia the right to fly from Auck­land to Apia.

Vir­gin Aus­tralia had planned to fly five re­turn ser­vices a week from midNovem­ber but said yes­ter­day this had been re­fused.

The air­line had run a joint ven­ture ser­vice on the route with the Samoan Gov­ern­ment for the past decade. But Samoa is now in con­junc­tion with Fiji Air­ways about to launch its own air­line, Samoan Air­ways.

A Vir­gin spokes­woman said the air­line was work­ing to reac­com­mo­date af­fected pas­sen­gers as “a mat­ter of pri­or­ity”. Op­tions could in­clude rerout­ing pas­sen­gers through Aus­tralia, from which pro­posed flights to Apia have been ap­proved, or giv­ing them re­funds.

“At this stage, we are work­ing in con­junc­tion with the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment to ex­plore op­tions to en­cour­age the Samoan Gov­ern­ment to re­con­sider its de­ci­sion,” the spokes­woman said.

Tick­ets had been sold for the past two months.

“It is very com­mon for air­lines to sell tick­ets prior to reg­u­la­tory ap­proval be­ing granted and all pas­sen­gers who pur­chased tick­ets were ad­vised that the ticket was still sub­ject to rel­e­vant reg­u­la­tory ap­provals.”

Flights be­tween Bris­bane, Syd­ney and Apia have been ap­proved by the Samoan Gov­ern­ment and these flights will start on Novem­ber 13.

Early in Septem­ber Vir­gin said it was ex­cited about the ser­vice.

How­ever, the Samoan Govern- ment sig­nalled in May it wanted to take a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion when it ended the joint ven­ture with Vir­gin.

A let­ter from Prime Min­is­ter Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Maliel­e­gaoi to Vir­gin Aus­tralia's chief ex­ec­u­tive, John Borghetti, stated the Cabi­net had unan­i­mously de­cided not to re­new the agree­ment, the Samoa Ob­server re­ported.

Samoa Air­ways will next month be­gin a six-times-a-week ser­vice us­ing a 170-seat two-class Boe­ing 737-800 with eight seats in busi­ness class and 162 in econ­omy.

The Auck­land-Apia route has tra­di­tion­ally been strong for “friends and fam­ily” traf­fic and Samoa is now get­ting more tourists from New Zealand. Air NZ is also in­creas­ing its ser­vices, us­ing Dream­lin­ers on the route this sum­mer. — Grant Bradley

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