Samoa Airways (OL, Apia Faleolo) is asking the Samoan government for a further WST4 million tala (USD1.46 million) to boost its operations and pay off debts, despite the government taking over debts worth WST54 million (USD19.8 million).

The Samoan Observer newspaper cites the minister for public enterprises, Leatinu'u Wayne So'oialo, saying that the airline was pushing for the additional WST4 million. However, So'oialo declined to provide any funding certainty, saying he was unsure about any supplementary funding from this year's 2023/24 budget, but the 2024/25 budget may be a better option.

"We'll have a look at it when we work on next year's budget," he said. "I don't know about the supplementary, if there's another allocation fund or not."

The 2023/24 budget, handed down on May 30, allocated WST4 million to Samoa Airways. As noted in ch-aviation at the time, the funding for the state-owned carrier, provided via the Ministry of Public Enterprises, was a sizeable funding reduction compared to the previous financial year when the airline received WST6 million (USD2.2 million). However, it has also emerged that the government is taking over a WST54 million debt owed to the Unit Trust of Samoa (UTOS). The Observer reports that the government decided to take on the debt in May. UTOS is a state-owned fund manager and investment vehicle.

Samoa Airways' interim chief executive, Fauoo Fatu Tiel, said that he appreciated the government's decision. "It was a reasonable decision, and the Government was called up as a guarantor for that loan in May this year to pay for the loan," he said. "Without the Government's assistance, the airline wouldn't be able to clear these debts around this time. That leaves the airline about WST25 million (USD9.15 million) left of its debts to pay."

However, the CEO says that Samoa Airways needs additional assistance. "We also have our own operations we need to pay for, as well as other debts of the airline itself aside from those debts so we might have to ask the government again for another grant as we need it that much," he said.

According to the ch-aviation PRO airlines module, Samoa Airways operates a fleet of three DHC-6-300s. ADS-B flight tracking data indicates two of those aircraft are active, with the third (5W-STF (msn 402)) not having flown since late May. From Apia, the airline flies to Maota Savai'i Island and neighbouring American Samoa. Samoa Airways is one of two scheduled passenger carriers based in the country, with the second, Talofa Airways (Apia Faleolo), operating multiple daily flights between Apia and Pago Pago.