The Government has strongly rejected claims they are trying to restrict Air New Zealand’s movements on the Samoa-Auckland route in a bid to give Samoa Airways a leg up in the competition.
Both Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell, say the claims are unfounded.
“The government does not get involved in the operation of the Air New Zealand. We have nothing to do with that,” Lautafi told the Sunday Samoan.
“The only Airline the government has denied their request to fly the New Zealand and Samoa route is Virgin Australia. That’s it!"
“And that is because under the joint venture, they were allowed and now the joint venture is finished, they can’t fly from New Zealand to Samoa and vice versa anymore."
“But in respect to Air New Zealand, let me be clear that the government does not dictate how things are done within Air New Zealand.”
The Minister also rejected claims the government is moving towards squeezing Air New Zealand to use only an airbus on their service to Samoa.
“Any operational plans by Air New Zealand that is there call, we have not made such a request,” Lautafi said.
“It’s up to them as to what type of airplanes to use. The government has nothing to do with that, unless I am not made aware of such a request. That is what I know.”
The Prime Minister supported his Minister.
“Why would the government step into the operation of Air New Zealand?” he said.
“The government does not have that type of authority and I know those decisions are made on commercial merits.”
The type of aircrafts Air New Zealand chooses to use will be determined by the loads, the Prime Minister said.
“The same principle applies to Polynesian Airlines (renamed Samoa Airways). But that depends on the number of passenger.”
Last week, Member of Parliament, La’auliolemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, used Parliament privileges to attack Air New Zealand’s work in Samoa.
“To the Minister responsible for Samoa Airways, Air New Zealand is out to kill our company,” he said.
Laauli, who praised the government’s decision to revive the airline’s international operations under Samoa Airways, said he watched with caution how Air New Zealand has gone all out to heighten the competition on the Samoa route.
“All of a sudden we see them doing things they never did before,” he said. “They have suddenly reduced their airfares.”
He added that they are also increasing the frequency of their flights by bringing in bigger aircrafts, making it difficult for Samoa Airways to compete.
“Where were they when our people were paying $2000 to $3000 to fly one way,” he asked. “Where were they all this time when our travellers needed help with expensive airfares?”
And now all of a sudden, the M.P. said, they have gone out of their way to try and kill Samoa Airways.
La’auli congratulated Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the government for their boldness in resurrecting the airline. He also called upon Samoans in Samoa and overseas to fly with Samoa Airways and support the airline that truly belongs to Samoa.
Drawing on his experience as the former Minister of Agriculture, he said loyalty was the point of difference when he travelled to market the Samoan taro.
Samoan people will always be loyal to Samoan products, he said, which is something the management of Samoa Airways should remember.
Air New Zealand was contacted for a comment last week.
The Airline’s Samoa Manager, Lisa Ailuai, responded: “Thank you for your email and for the opportunity for Air New Zealand to comment on the comments expressed by M.P. Schmidt during Parliament’s sitting this morning."
“I have copied in our Auckland Public Affairs team as they will respond accordingly on Air New Zealand’s behalf.”
This was on Thursday.
As of press time last night, no response has been received.