The Samoan government is willing to support a fleet replacement program at Samoa Airways (OL, Apia Faleolo), according to a report in the Samoa Observer. The Minister of Public Enterprises, Leatinuu Wayne So’oialo, who oversees the carrier, has asked for a plan on how the fleet replacement program might work.

The small state-owned airline has three 19-passenger DHC-6-300s in its fleet, although the oldest, the 49.7-year-old 5W-STF (msn 402), has not operated since 2021 when it was grounded over corrosion issues. The remaining aircraft, 38-year-old 5W-FAW (msn 827) and 43-year-old 5W-FAY (msn 690), are both in service, according to the report and verified by flight tracking ADS-B data. Both aircraft operate the airline's timetabled flights between Apia and Pago Pago in neighbouring American Samoa.

Samoa Airways Chief Executive Officer Fauo’o Fatu Tielu says the options include stripping and rebuilding the existing aircraft; acquiring updated versions of the same type, namely DHC-6-300-Gs or DHC-6-400; or opting for another aircraft altogether.

He added that the grounded DHC-6-300, only purchased seven years ago, required a report and certification from the Vanuatu-based Pacific Aviation Safety Office before it could resume service. However, he did not say when this would happen.

As recently reported in ch-aviation, even after the government took over WST54 million tala (USD19.6 million) of the airline's debts and provided it with WST4 million (USD1.45 million) in direct funding in its latest 2023/24 budget, Samoa Airways continues to labour under approximately WST25 million (USD9.07 million) in debt, and the CEO has recently asked for more money, something the minister declined to commit to.

Separately, Hainan Airlines (HU, Haikou) has applied for a foreign air operator's certificate to operate direct flights from Haikou to Apia. The airline had operated charter flights on behalf of a Hong Kong tour company earlier this year, but those flights stopped after it was found they breached the local aviation regulations pertaining to long-haul non-scheduled flight operations, which are reportedly limited to just two per operator per month. The Ministry for Works, Transport, and Infrastructure recently told the Samoan Parliament an assessment of the application was underway.

Aside from Samoa Airways, just five airlines operate scheduled flights into Samoa's Faleolo International Airport. They are Air New Zealand, Aircalin, Qantas, Fiji Airways, and local operator Talofa Airways. In addition to Pago Pago, Apia is connected by these airlines to Honolulu, Nadi, Brisbane International, Auckland International, and Wallis.