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Samoa to increase international departure tax beginning July 1

An increase in international departure tax out of Samoa’s international airports goes into effect July 1st (Samoa time), while the country's government is consulting with airlines for the fee to be included in the airline ticket price, says an official with the Samoa Airport Authority.

Currently the international departure tax for passengers 12 years and older is WST$40 (Samoan tala) while children are exempt. The departure tax is usually paid at the airport before departure. 

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Samoa Airport Authority official Nanai Saaga Jr., confirmed that the new hike goes into effect on July 1 this year. He said via e-mail from Apia on Wednesday that all international departing adult passengers will pay WST$65 while passengers 2 years but not yet 12 years old will pay WST$15 and “below 2 years old are fully exempted”.

(Samoa News should point out that the departure tax is paid in Samoan tala. WST$65 is about US$32.50, under yesterday’s exchange rate.)

Saaga also provided the Airport Authority’s brief summary of the fee hike justification, which states in part that the last major increase in airport fees was in 1999 with the Airport Authority realizing a small profit in 2000 as a result of those increases.

The summary notes that it is costly to carry out infrastructure needs and safety and security requirements to meet international compliance, adding that injection of new revenue streams are need to meet increasing costs of operation.

According to Saaga, the Airport Authority “is also engaged in consultations with the airlines” to have these fees collected in the airline ticket price.

International airlines serving Faleolo International Airport in Samoa include Air Pacific, Air New Zealand, Virgin Samoa and Pago Pago-based Inter Island Airways.  Polynesian Airlines — owned by the Samoa government — operates out of the Fagali’i Airport (which is closer to Apia) on flights to and from Pago Pago.

Fagali’i Airport is owned and operated by Polynesian Airlines and Samoa News has learned that the current round trip fare of US$145 between Pago Pago and Fagali’i includes the current departure tax.

The tax was previously collected separately at the departure at Fagali’i but there were some past incidents in which staff faced problems trying to collect the fee, resulting in Polynesian staff having to pay the fee out of their own pockets.

“For example, there were cases where an elderly passenger would show up at the Fagali’i airport and when asked to pay the tax, the passenger would say something like, ‘how can you charge your own father or mother an extra fee?’” an airline staffer told Samoa News.

To make it easy for passengers, especially when they have forgotten to set aside money for the departure tax, the airline’s main office in Apia opted to include the departure tax in the price of the airline ticket, the staffer said.

Meanwhile, Polynesian says today’s Manu Samoa rugby match against Scotland has promoted heavy passenger traffic from Pago Pago to Apia. The game is set to get underway this afternoon (Saturday in Samoa) at Apia Park.

Polynesian is also monitoring the heavy passenger traffic to Apia due to two major church conferences, including the annual Methodist Church conference. “This time of year, there is always heavy traffic to Samoa due to church conferences, as well as local residents heading to Samoa for the summer break,” a Polynesian official told Samoa News.

The official also noted that Polynesian is looking at adding three extra flights early next week to accommodate the American Samoa delegation heading to the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts hosted by the Solomon Islands.