Recently, the government of Samoa kicked out Virgin Australia from using the airport because the government is planning to revive the Samoa Air brand with Polynesia Airlines. The problem with this thinking is they killed the old airline for a reason and those same problem exist but that is a different discussion, I guess.
At the center of the problem is the corruption that is common in Samoa. It seems that the big issue is that the government did not feel they was making enough money off the former partnership with Virgin Australia. They wanted to try and revive the old brand so they could make more of the money. It is also worth noting there is believed to be up to a millions dollars in unpaid fuel used by the government that should be payable to Virgin.
However, the focus of the government is what makes them a buck in the here and now and that means trying to do a move that forces people to use the new developing airline from Samoa. It really does not make sense on many level but Samoa is known to defy logic in their political dealings on a regular basis.
This is a developing story as much of the details are being guarded by the government to not make themselves look worse than they already do.
What happened to Virgin Australia
They use to fly to Apia from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. Well, that was until this week when Samoa ban them from landing at the airport for what seems to be no reason whatsoever. The contract for the partnership ended but that would convert to Virgin being just another airline competing in a market? Well, the government does not seem to like that or a free market for that matter.
In the end, the foreign affairs of Australia had to try and get involved to talk some logic into their counterparts about banning the main airline serving the route. It seems in the end they did get flight to Sydney and Brisbane restored or what in the process of getting them restored over the next few days.
However, Samoa refused at all request to restore the service from Auckland. The reasoning is that the new airline will be flying there. The fact that this is protectionism and against the very fiber of free market capitalism does not seem to matter.
This is concerning because the national airline of Samoa has a history of not working. Well, airlines in general have a history of failing there. I have personally flown on Inter Island Air and Samoa Air, both of which do not operate today. What happens when these airlines fails and Virgin is not serving the route?
Just as much as the government wants a monopoly on the route, Air New Zealand does as well. So when this airlines folds, Samoa just gave the national airline of New Zealand a free pass for a monopoly on already expensive flights. Good job, Samoa!
What about the passengers?
As you can think, they are being told they can’t go to Samoa on Virgin Australia and most of them are being picked up by Fiji Airways with a stop over in Nadi. It might not be in the end of the world as Fiji as a great stop over but it does add a few hours to the travel on both ends.
This just does not make sense for a country that is struggling to get tourist to start with to make a decision that makes it even harder for people to come to the islands. It was a douche move and I hope at some point the Samoans wake up to what is happening. The government there is destroying its’ own tourism sector.
This is addition to the increase in terminal fees that the government requires currently. Nickel and diming the tourist to death will not help increase arrivals to the country. Ban whole airlines from landing will directly affect the arrivals numbers for sure.
What is seems that the government misses is that each one of their places had 100 people coming to spend a week in Samoa. If each of them spend $1,000 on average; that is about $100,000 into the Samoan economy and about $15,000 of that will end up in the government accounts for taxation. They literally just shot themselves in the foot here.
I am sure many of them will just go to Fiji now or they will just cancel the trip all together. I full understand the anger of many of the passengers.
Fixing the Samoa Tourism Authority is more critical
The Samoa Tourism Authority is completely broken and ran by people who know little about actual tourism. This is why the country is being overlooked by people that end up in Fiji and French Polynesia. I would think addressing the good ole boy system at the tourism fale on the bay would be far more critical than trying to piss off a major airline and indirectly putting pressure on a major trade partner. I want to be very clear. The tourism authority in Samoa is broken!
Among its sin is the pay for play system they operate with small tourism operators. They basically have tried to force families with beach fales business to book through them and are taken 20% (and sometimes more) from them for “admin fees.” It is not really helping tourism but actually hurting them. $20 out of $100 can be huge for a family with a few fales on the beach in Savaii. It has been rumored for years they are making these families sign non competitive agreements as well so they can’t get up on Agoda and Hostel World. (However, recently some of them have started to show up on these online platforms)
The reason that tourism board in Samoa has been able to operate like this is because the people in control have powerful ties to the ruling government party for the last thirty years. The real need is for the ministry of tourism to operate in connection with the government but not as a ministry itself.
I hope this help people understand what is happening.