Samoa Airways has started nonstop flights between Brisbane and Apia with Boeing 737-800s, adding about 14,000 seats a year on the route.
Flight OL843, operated by Boeing 737-800 I-NEOS, touched down in Brisbane at about 2030 on Tuesday, following its five and a half hour journey from Apia. Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was among those on board the inaugural service.
The aircraft was on the ground for about 90 minutes before taking off on the reciprocal OL844 to Apia just before 2200.
Samoa Airways plans to serve Brisbane twice a week from its Apia hub until the end of January 2019, when the service is reduced to once a week.
Brisbane Airport chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff said the Samoa Airways flight would offer travellers more choice and support tourism.
“Brisbane has the largest population of Samoan born people in Queensland, so these new flights help maintain strong cultural familial ties, providing choice and convenience, while saving time and money as travellers are no longer forced to travel via another port,” de Graaff said in a statement on Wednesday.
Virgin Australia is the only other airline offering nonstop flights between Brisbane and Apia.
The Samoan government established Samoa Airways as the country’s national carrier in 2017 with a leased 737.
In addition to Brisbane, the airline also flies to Auckland and Sydney from its Apia hub, as well as Pago Pago in American Samoa from Fagali’i Airport. There are also a number of domestic routes within American Samoa with a Twin Otter turboprop.
The decision to launch a new carrier came after the Samoan government terminated the Virgin Samoa joint-venture with Virgin Australia 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.
A memorandum of understanding with Fiji Airways was signed to help establish Samoa Airways.
Following the termination of the JV, Virgin Australia maintained services to the Pacific Islands nation with nonstop flights to Apia from Brisbane and Sydney.
However, the Samoan government denied Virgin Australia’s application to operate between Apia and Auckland.