Virgin passengers in limbo as Samoa blocks flights

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Virgin Australia is scrambling to accommodate thousands of passengers after the Samoan government blocked it from operating flights between the Pacific island and New Zealand.
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Samoa pulled the plug on Virgin Samoa, a joint venture with Australia’s number two airline, in May and is preparing to launch its own national carrier called Samoa Airways.

Virgin Australia had planned to fly its own services from Australia and New Zealand to the Samoan capital Apia from November 13, but on Monday said that permission for Auckland to Apia flights had not been granted.

“Virgin Australia is disappointed with the Samoan government’s decision to deny authorisation of our services,” a Virgin Australia spokeswoman said.

“We are working in conjunction with the Australian government to explore options to encourage the Samoan government to reconsider its decision.”

About 6000 passengers booked on the five weekly return Auckland – Apia services will be affected. Virgin said it would fly those passengers to Samoa via Australia or to other destinations, or give them refunds.

“We are working hard to re-accommodate affected passengers as a matter of priority and will be proactively communicating with them to discuss their options,” the spokeswoman said.

Virgin’s twice weekly return services from Sydney to Apia and weekly return service from Brisbane will go ahead as planned from November 13.

Virgin management is understood to view the decision as a move to protect Samoa’s fledgling national carrier, and is in breach of Australia and Samoa’s bilateral air services agreement.

The decision means Air New Zealand and Samoa Airways will be the only carriers servicing Auckland to Apia from November 13.

Virgin Australia and the Samoan government each owned 49 per cent of Virgin Samoa, which will cease flying on November 12; resort and hotel operator Grey Investment Group controls the remaining 2 per cent.

Virgin Samoa made a $4.2 million profit from $47.8 million in revenue last financial year, according to Virgin Australia’s 2017 annual report.

The Samoan government reportedly withdrew from the venture amid dissatisfaction over high airfares and allegations that Virgin and Air New Zealand had been colluding on fares.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.