Virgin Australia will maintain services to Samoa after its Virgin Samoa joint-venture with the Samoan government is wound up in November.
The airline has launched nonstop flights to Apia from Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney due to kick off from November 13 2017.
Under the new schedule, Virgin plans to offer five flights a week on the Apia-Auckland route, two flights a week on Apia-Sydney and a once weekly service between Apia and Brisbane with Boeing 737-800s featuring eight business and 168 economy seats.
The flights are subject to Samoan government approval.
“We are excited to enhance connections to Samoa through flights with Virgin Australia,” Virgin general manager for network and revenue management Russell Shaw said in a statement on Friday.
“Samoa is an important tourist destination and since the Virgin brand commenced flying there in 2005 we have carried more than 1.4 million guests between Australia, New Zealand and Samoa.
“We want to continue to support Samoa and provide valuable tourism opportunities to the Samoan economy.”
In August, Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC) approved Virgin’s request for 880 seats of capacity a week between Australia and Samoa.
The IASC also approved Virgin Australia’s request that the capacity was also able to be utilised by its wholly-owned low-cost carrier Tigerair Australia.
Virgin Samoa, 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, currently has three flights a week on the Sydney-Apia route, a once weekly flight on Brisbane-Apia and six flights a week on Auckland-Apia.
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 Virgin Samoa livery.
There will be also be second airline in the Samoa-Australia and Samoa-New Zealand markets starting in November, with Samoa Airways offering six weekly flights from Apia to Auckland and two flights a week from Apia to Sydney with a leased Boeing 737-800.
The Samoan government has established Samoa Airways in partnership with Fiji Airways, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in July between the pair. Samoa’s current domestic carrier Polynesian Airlines is also part of the new venture.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told the Samoa Observer on August 18 Fiji Airways would continue to focus on Fiji-Samoa flights, while Samoa Airways would focus on routes to New Zealand and Australia.
In May, the Samoan government announced it was terminating the Virgin Samoa joint-venture between Virgin Australia and the country that was first established in 2005. Media reports at the time said the decision to ditch the JV was due to concerns over high fares.