Fiji Airways considering Am Samoa as part of its Pacific operations expansion
Fiji Airways is looking at expanding operations in the Pacific, and American Samoa is being considered as part of the expansion, according to American Samoa Visitors Bureau Executive Director David Vaeafe in a letter to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga.
An Aug. 15th letter provides a briefing for the Lolo Administration following discussions held Aug. 9th in Nadi, Fiji between Visitors Bureau — represented by Vaeafe and board chair Tom Drabble — and Fiji Airways — represented by the airline’s top executives including managing director and chief executive officer Andre Viljoen.
At the meeting, “We briefed them on the American Samoa’s Tourism Industry” as well as the Tourism Master Plan (TMP) and the Airline Marketing Services Study (AMSS) “that have both identified the need for new air services,” the ASVB executive director wrote.
Also discussed was the proposal the governor send in a letter in April to Fiji government officials, “outlining the opportunities flights would bring to both countries in terms of tourism and trade both ways,” Vaeafe said.
Fiji Air officials were also updated on the provision of the Omnibus Territories Act of 2015 that have already passed a US Senate committee and will soon go to the Senate floor for final vote before it goes to the US House.
Vaeafe said that it was the view of Fiji Airways officials that the cabotage provision applies only for Polynesian Airlines but were advised that it would apply to any foreign carrier wishing to fly domestically within American Samoa.
He informed Lolo and Lemanu that the current Air Services Agreement between the governments of the United States and Fiji provides Fiji Airways with an option for direct service for Fiji to American Samoa then onto one other Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) country.
And possible routes suggested to Fiji Airways officials with this option in mind: Fiji-American Samoa- Cook Islands; Fiji- American Samoa- Samoa return; and Fiji- American Samoa- Tonga.
“Viljoen said [Fiji Airways] was looking at expanding its operations into the Pacific and American Samoa was being considered as part of that,” Vaeafe said. Additionally, the airline’s chief strategy officer Aubrey Swift said they were looking at using their ATR-72 (seating up to 60 passengers) aircraft on these routes.
The Fiji Airways requested additional information including copy of the TMP, AMSS and statistical information of which electronic links to the data found on the Department of Commerce website were sent to them.
“Additional travel seasonality data will also be complied by our office and sent through to them,” Vaeafe wrote. “Viljoen said he was very pleased with the briefing and discussion and saw the opportunities there in both the tourist and trade markets.”
According to Vaeafe, the meeting “was a success in further building the partnership” with Fiji Airways, which is putting together a proposal and will be sending it through shortly. And the proposal will be submitted to Lolo and Lemanu for review and comment.
Vaeafe also noted that the meeting could not have been timed better for the fact that Polynesian Airlines had chartered Fiji Airways ATR 72 aircraft on Aug. 6th to operate two special flights from Faleolo to Pago Pago as their planes were down.
He said that he and Drabble were on the second charter flight that took only 24 minutes and he “told the [Fiji Air] officials of the seamless service they had provided on the charters. They said it was the first time Fiji Airways had flown into American Samoa and everything went well for them.”
The meeting in Nadi, called by Fiji Airways, followed the governor’s Apr. 25th letter to the Fiji Minister of Civil Aviation and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum along with the proposal sent regarding airline services and opportunities between Fiji and American Samoa.
Lolo requested that Fiji Airways investigate the feasibility of extending air service to American Samoa with a possible connection to Hawai’i or the US west coast. He said this would ensure direct service to Fiji and on to New Zealand, Australia, and Asian Rim countries.
“It also makes possible the alternative route from American Samoa- Fiji- Hawai’i,” said Lolo, who also asked Fiji Airways to assess the feasibility of having three Fiji Airways flights to American Samoa. (See Samoa News edition July 29 for details.)
The governor also appointed Vaeafe and Visitors Bureau’s former board chairman Roy J.D. Hall Jr., to work with Fiji Airways. However, Hall wasn’t able to attend the meeting in Fiji due to a family fa’alavelave. A copy of Vaeafe’s letter to Lolo and Lemanu was also sent to Hall.