Virgin Australia to keep flying to Samoa once JV with government ends

A file image of a Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 featuring Virgin Samoa livery.
A file image of a Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 featuring Virgin Samoa livery.

Virgin Australia has signalled it intends to maintain services to Samoa after its Virgin Samoa joint-venture with the Samoan government is wound up in November.

The airline has applied to Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC) for 880 seats of capacity a week between Australia and Samoa.

“Virgin Australia intends to commence five services per week between Australia and Samoa from 13 November 2017,” Virgin said in its letter to the IASC dated July 10 2017.

“These flights will be operated with Boeing 737-800 aircraft configured with 176 seats.”

In May, the Samoan government announced the Virgin Samoa joint venture between Virgin Australia and country would be terminated by November.

Media reports at the time said the move to ditch the JV, which was formed in 2005, was due to concerns over high fares.

Virgin Samoa is 49 per cent held by Virgin Australia, 49 per cent by the Samoan government and two per cent by Samoa-based tourism company Grey Investment Group. It flies from the Samoan capital Apia to Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney.

The airline does not own any aircraft. Instead, Virgin Australia operates services on behalf of the joint-venture airline. However, one Boeing 737-800 has been painted in a special livery that features a special Virgin Samoa livery.

Prior to his sudden departure as group executive for Virgin Australia airlines in late June, John Thomas told Australian Aviation on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Cancun, Mexico the airline was keen to maintain air links with Samoa following the end of the partnership with the government.

“At a group perspective we would like to continue to have a presence there so we are working through what could be possible,” Thomas said on June 4.

“Obviously there is the classic VFR market but we do believe there is potential to grow those markets with tourism.

“The nice thing about it with the 737 it is the right gauge of aircraft for that route.”

In July, the Samoan government said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Fiji Airways to help establish a new carrier Samoa Airways, with the current domestic carrier Polynesian Airlines to be part of the new venture.

Comments

  1. Jay says

    What an awesome relief! From a commercial perspective, the Australian market plays a huge part in the lifeline of the tourism industry in Samoa. It would have been disastrous for that lifeline to be severed once the JV was over. Virgin Australia executives need to be greatly acknowledged, congratulated and thanked for their vision and positive intention to carry on their service and presence in Samoa. I am sure all the Operators in Samoa would agree with me that a commercial catastrophe has been adverted.

  2. Craig says

    @ Jay So what are you saying – Fiji Airways aren’t good enough to run a successful commercial operation?

  3. Nielsen says

    Fiji Airways too small compared to Virgin. Virgin can compete well without Samoa ties and healthy competition breeds.