Virgin Australia has received a setback in its efforts to maintain flights to Samoa after the country’s government denied the airline’s application to operate flights between Apia and Auckland.
While flights from Brisbane and Sydney to Apia will go ahead on November 13 as previously planned, Virgin Australia has been forced to cancel its five weekly Apia-Auckland service with Boeing 737-800s.
The airline said it had removed the Auckland flights from sale, describing the Samoan government’s decision as “out of our control”.
“Virgin Australia wishes to advise that the Samoan Government has denied authorisation of our scheduled services between Auckland and Apia,” Virgin Australia said in a note to travel agents on Monday.
“We are disappointed by this decision and at this stage are working in conjunction with the Australian Government to explore options to encourage the Samoan Government to reconsider its decision.
“Virgin Australia is renowned for bringing choice and competition to the aviation market and we want to continue to support Samoa and provide valuable tourism opportunities to the Samoan economy.”
Affected passengers have the choice of travelling via Brisbane or Sydney, changing their ticket to a different destination, getting a refund or receiving a travel credit for use on a future Virgin Australia ticket.
“We would like to thank our guests and industry partners for their continued support, patience and understanding,” Virgin Australia said.
In September, Virgin Australia said it would maintain services to Samoa following the wind-up of its Virgin Samoa joint-venture with the Samoan government and began selling tickets for five flights a week on the Apia-Auckland route, two flights a week on Apia-Sydney and up to two weekly services between Apia and Brisbane with Boeing 737-800s featuring eight business and 168 economy seats.
Media reports at the time said the Samoan government’s decision to ditch the JV was due to concerns over high fares.
In its place, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s government established Samoa Airways in partnership with Fiji Airways.
Samoa Airways will offer six weekly flights from Apia to Auckland and two flights a week from Apia to Sydney with a leased Boeing 737-800.
As a result of the decision to deny Virgin Australia authorisation for Auckland-Apia, Samoa Airways and Air New Zealand will be the only two operators on the route.