Samoa and Fiji Airways talk codeshare

Photo: Fiji Airways

Negotiations have commenced between the government-owned airline, Samoa Airways and Fiji Airways on the possibility of having a codeshare agreement. 

This was revealed by the Minister of Public Enterprises and Samoa Airways, Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo in an interview on the Soalepule programme over the weekend. 

Discussions according to Leatinu’u are focused on how many seats Fiji Airways can sell to Samoa Airways to operate flights going to New Zealand and other countries around the world. 

He also confirmed that Cabinet has yet to make a decision on a proposal from another international airline to have codesharing with Samoa Airways. 

Leatinu’u further explained that at this stage, they are considering all the pros and cons of getting into partnerships with international airlines as they do not want “history to repeat”, learning from the previous mistakes of the former administrations.

A codeshare flight is an agreement between airlines to sell seats on each other’s flights. This gives the appearance of airlines flying to more destinations. By doing so, the airlines share the revenue on that ticket according to the agreement.

Leatinu’u made the revelation in response to questions on whether they are looking at bringing in a new aircraft for Samoa Airways. 

He reiterated that purchasing a new aircraft is the least of their problems at the moment and is not even considered as an option; not until they pay off the airline’s debt. 

The Samoa Airways Minister then clarified that they are prioritising other things such as clearing the airlines debt and getting the right equipment installed at the Faleolo International Airport. 

Leatinu’u made reference to the damaged container loader at Faleolo Airport claiming that it is more reasonable and “cheaper” to fix the problems at the airport at this point than getting a new aircraft. 

He then confirmed that new container loaders are expected to arrive by the end of January 2024. 

He said the importation of the container loaders has been plagued by delay but assured that the arrival of the new equipment is the best solution to the problem at hand. 

Leatinu’u explained that the loaders have been damaged and could not be fixed in Samoa so they have ordered new machines from Spain. 

Currently, according to Leatinu’u, there are three container loaders at the airport and are not in a good condition. 

He added that they rather use the money to purchase and improve the quality of equipment and facilities at the airport first, before they think of investing millions to purchase a new aircraft. 

Samoa Observer reported last week, the national airline resorted to manual loading using belt loaders at the Faleolo International Airport, due to a faulty container loader that affected passenger travel. 

The airline’s interim Chief Executive Officer, Fauo’o Fatu Tielu said the belt loaders cost the airline quite a large sum of money along with other new equipment, which they tried to receive at the earliest opportunity in order to cater for the rising demand.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Fauoo said the container loader machine at the airport should be up and running soon while denying that the airline had cash flow problems and wasn’t able to pay duty for importing its spare parts. 

According to Fauo’o, they are also awaiting new equipment worth over SAT$1 million (US$357,000) to be imported from Spain to boost their services, although there has been a four-month delay by the supplier of the refurbished container loading equipment.

“According to the supplier the company that supplies spare parts has relocated to the U.S causing the delay,” he said in a previous interview.

The CEO pointed out that the European company was chosen because it had promised to deliver the equipment by July but that was not the case.

The decision by the airline to switch to manual loading comes at the back of Samoa Airways apologising to travellers over ongoing issues with the airport’s container loader, which led to a New Zealand-bound flight leaving behind most of its cargo.

The Air New Zealand flight departed Samoa and was unable to take some of the passengers’ cargo because of a technical fault with the system. 

Some passengers on the flight expressed disappointment after not being able to take their luggage, which included boxes of umu intended for relatives in New Zealand. Those who prepared the umu and travelled without their cargo said by the time it arrived in New Zealand the cooked food would no longer be fit for human consumption.  The same issue occurred with ground service equipment, which led to Air New Zealand’s cancellation of two widebody aircraft flights last month catching hundreds of travellers off-guard.