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Video: Samoa Air ‘s new weigh to go fare goes viral

Samoa Air is relaunching today direct flights between Maota airport on Samoa’s island of Savai’i and Pago Pago International Airport, introducing to local residents the new concept that the cost of air fare is based on the passenger and baggage weight, which has attracted international news media coverage.


Direct flights between Tafuna airport and Savai’i were terminated several years ago leaving Savai’i residents having to either fly or sail to the main island of Upolu to get to Tutuila. This was the same situation for American Samoa residents wanting to travel to Savai’i.


“There has been remarkable reaction and support from residents, especially the business community in Savai’i with the resumption of Savai’i service,” Samoa Air chief executive officer Chris Langton said in a telephone interview from Apia yesterday morning.


Samoa Air's first flight from Maota airport is scheduled to arrive at Tafuna airport around 9:50a.m. today and less then an hour later departs for Faleolo International Airport on Upolu. The plane will then return to Tutuila around 1p.m. while the return flight to Maota out of Pago Pago is scheduled for later this afternoon.






Samoa Air’s pay-per-weigh, or airfare depending on the weight of the passengers and their bags, has attracted attention from international news organizations, reporting on this concept because it's the only airline in the world with this type of program.


The airline launched last June domestic service within the independent country of Samoa and last November introduced the “pay-per weigh' concept. The airline on its website said, “Samoa Air, introducing a world first: ‘Pay only for what you weigh’.”


“We at Samoa Air are keeping airfares fair by charging our passengers only for what they weigh,” it says. “The Sky’s the Limit!”


The airline’s fleet comprising small aircraft — two 9-seater planes and one 3-seater aircraft — is used for air-taxi service in Samoa, making it easy to connect international travelers arriving at Faleolo International Airport to Savai’i.


Passengers traveling between Savai’i and Tutuila have two options with Samoa Air: a direct flight or a flight via Faleolo airport, said Langton, who said that since this ‘pay-per-weigh’ program was put on its website, they received many calls from residents of Samoa and from overseas, because it's “very interesting”.


And in the last couple of days, the airline has been bombarded by calls from global news organizations.


“...we must charge by weight, never by seat and this is to make sure that the seat given to the passenger is what they paid for,” Langton said, and noted that one of the issues that needed to be shared with the public is that fact that a plane is “operated by weight and not by seat.”


“The functional issue is that the plane can only carry a certain amount of weight and that weight has to pay the cost. There is no other way,” he said. “The first thing we do, is encourage or educate people to understand that a plane is run by weight.”


Langton said the other issue to look at is the way airlines do business in serving their customers. “We have to take care of passengers, who pay depending on their weight and not by the distance they travel,” he said. “At Samoa Air, we make sure passengers are taken care of.”


He said each passenger is weighed, along with their bags to be taken on a flight. The combined weight of the passenger and their bags is the cost of their airfare and this process also ensures that the passenger travels on the same flight with his/ her bags.


As for passengers who are “big” or tall, Langton said the airline will takeout a row on the plane to ensure this particular passenger is accommodated and in comfort.


Currently, fares between Maota and Pago Pago are US$1.06 per kilo ( a kilo is 2.2 pounds) and between Faleolo and Pago Pago the cost is US$0.93 per kilo, according to Langton, who added that fares are available on the airline’s website.


American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau executive director David Vaeafe said Samoa Air is currently the only airline in the world that charges by the weight of a passenger plus their bags.


“Weighing passengers before getting on the plane for the inter Samoa route is nothing new to us as this has been the norm for many, many years, due to small type of aircrafts used here,” said Vaeafe. “However, the new ‘pay-per-weigh’ concept is something new for American Samoa travelers.”


“In many ways, it can be a fair concept for passengers - for example, a 12 year old passenger, who is small in size and weight won’t have to pay an adult fare, based on airline fares that anyone 12-years and older does pay the adult fare,” Vaeafe said.


And if the passenger is heavier, that person pays the higher fare, he said and noted that this concept by Samoa Air has worked for some time in Samoa, but he will have to wait and see how American Samoans will react once the airline begins air service.


“It also should be noted that Samoa Air has much smaller aircraft, and it does present some challenge to the airline when having to deal with both passenger and baggage weight,” he said.


Overall, the airline industry, which is faced with some economic difficulties, is looking at ways to cut costs and perhaps pay-per-weigh, is one way of addressing the high cost of fuel and operations, he said.


He also said that this will be a new experience for visitors from the region, such as Australia and New Zealand, the two markets that American Samoa is focusing its attention on. He believes the Samoa Air fare-structure will not impact these regional travelers, adding that Samoa Air’s initial main-market will be residents visiting families.






The U.S. Department of Transportation in January this year, granted authorization for Samoa Air to operate to and from American Samoa and points beyond the two Samoas.


According to the current schedule, there will be six weekly flights from Maota and seven weekly flights from Faleolo to Pago Pago.


“It’s being terrific with the support from the public,  particularly people in Savai’i, especially businesses and resorts that we have reintroduced this route,” said Langton, who promised that the airline will develop this route connecting Tutuila and Savai’i so it will successful.


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He also said Samoa Air is “working closely together” with Pago Pago-based Inter Island Airways in accepting each other’s airline tickets.


Inter Island Air has not operated any flights since late Friday when its aircraft encountered mechanical problems at Faleolo International Airport. The airline’s mechanics have since traveled to Apia to check on the plane and parts are expected to arrive by the end of this week.


Inter Island has been accommodating passengers on Polynesian Airlines, including chartering Polynesian.


Samoa Air will be the only airline providing service to and from Savai’i, while Inter Island and Polynesian will continue to serve Upolu island.