Samoa Airways (OL, Apia Faleolo) has abandoned its ambitions to retain a jet in its fleet for the next few years after recently terminating the lease in acrimonious circumstances for its sole B737-800. Speaking to local media, Samoa's minister of public enterprises, Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo, said the state-owned airline would concentrate on joint ventures in the short to medium term. The news coincides with Samoa's decision to reopen its borders to international travelers on September 22.

As recently reported in ch-aviation, Samoa Airlines paid USD4.6 million in penalties to FLY Aircraft Holdings Eighteen Ltd, an SPV for Carlyle Aviation Partners, after rejecting a leased B737-800 then registered as 5W-TFL (msn 42805). That plane was acquired in mid-2021 but a subsequent change in government in Samoa saw priorities shift and the aircraft was deemed surplus to requirements and never made it past Brisbane International.

At the time, Samoa was closed to outside travelers. Demands for USD59 million in penalties were negotiated down to the single-digit figure with 5W-TFL recently going to Rex - Regional Express (ZL, Wagga Wagga) as VH-MFM. That USD4.6 million write-down resulted in Samoa Airways recording an overall net loss of USD1.6 million in 1Q 2022.

According to the ch-aviation fleets module, the departure of the B737-800 leaves Samoa Airways with three DHC-6-300s with an average age of 42.7 years and lacking the capacity to operate international flights to former destinations in Australia and New Zealand.

“For now we won’t be looking into jet service until another two to three years. We have four airlines flying to and from Samoa, and the idea is to get seats on all those flights so we can have a codeshare arrangement, especially with Fiji Airways flying to Honolulu," So’oialo told the Samoa Observer. "But that is left to the interim board to negotiate possible joint ventures with other airlines and also continue our airport operations like ground handling.”

Fiji Airways now connects Apia Faleolo to Honolulu with a weekly flight and Nadi with 5x weekly flights. Qantas flies in three times a week from Sydney Kingsford Smith and Air New Zealand comes in daily from Auckland. In March, Virgin Australia is presently scheduled to start flights to Faleolo Airport from Sydney and Brisbane.

Separately, newly installed interim Samoa Airways CEO Fauo'o Fatu Tielu says the airline's top priority is to pay down debt. "We obviously need to ask the government to assist us in that regard," he told the Samoa Observer. "We still have some funds left and we will also have to see where else we can get money from for the operation of the company."