Samoa Airways Plans To Fly To LAX

Filed Under: Other Airlines

While I’m skeptical of this actually ever happening, American Samoa governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has indicated that Samoa Airways plans to launch flights to Los Angeles International Airport. The airline is owned by the government, which would explain why a government official is making a statement about a new route for the airline.

He says that to get around US cabotage rules, the flight would operate from Apia to Pago Pago, pick up the territory’s passengers, and then return to Apia, before continuing to Los Angeles. That’s quite a process.

Currently there are no flights between Samoa and the US mainland, though Hawaiian Airlines flies between Pago Pago and Honolulu, and Fiji Airways flies between Nadi and Honolulu via Apia. Both routes are operated with limited frequencies.

Now, the challenge here is that this flight would cover a distance of ~4,800 miles, and Samoa Airways doesn’t have a plane capable of operating the route. The airline has a fleet of four planes, including a single 737, as well as three turboprops.

That one 737 is just leased from Malindo Air, and is expected to be returned at the end of the year. Furthermore, the airline was supposed to get a 737 MAX 9, but that order has been canceled following the groundings of the 737 MAX

So while this route sounds cool, it sure seems like there are some significant logistics standing in the way of this being a reality, not the least of which is lack of available aircraft.

In fairness, Samoa Airways’ predecessor, Polynesian Airlines, also briefly operated flights to Los Angeles using 767s.

There is a significant Samoan population in the US mainland, and California alone has over 60,000 Samoans.

The problem is that there wouldn’t be much business demand here, and it would be a very price sensitive route. While I suppose a once or twice per week flight might work, the logistics and costs associated with it just make this questionable.

Then again, perhaps this wouldn’t be about turning a direct profit on the flight, but rather would be about serving the community.

Do you think Samoa Airways will launch flights to LAX?

Comments
  1. I’m confused – I thought Samoa Airways was owner by the government of Samoa, which is different than American Samoa?

  2. Yes Samoa Airways belongs to Samoa, not American Samoa.

    Previously Polynesia Airlines which became Samoa Airways served LAX using a 767 briefly, so idea is not a total fantasy.

  3. Clearly they don’t understand the cabotage rules. The Korean airlines have got in trouble by transporting passengers from the mainland to Guam/Saipan via ICN. Flying someone from Pago Pago to LA via Apia would be similar.

  4. That doesn’t make any sense. Transporting pax PPG-Apia-LAX is literally the definition of cabotage. Seems to be an airline would have to be based in American Samoa, not Samoa, to operate PPG-LAX.

  5. Samoa Airways today already has some cabotage rights from American Samoa as access is so limited.
    In the past Polynesian was also granted cabotage for LAX service, so as stated prior its not a total fantasy.

  6. As recently as 2010 Air New Zealand operated a flight between APW and LAX. I traveled to Tonga that year and my return flight came in from AKL, picked up passengers at TBU and APW before heading to LAX. I recall the AKL-TBU-APW-LAX route was operated by a 777 at the time. It was a route I believe spoke to Lucky’s last point, a means of servicing the people of the Pacific Islands with large populations in New Zealand and California who do not have access to many flight options.

  7. I was in Samoa (remarkably beautiful place) this June and the number of US service members going through immigration was significant. American Samoa has the highest enlistment rate of any US state or territory, but traveling between AS and the mainland typically requires stops in Samoa and (Fiji, Australia, New Zealand), because Hawaiian service is both infrequent and expensive. Anything that made travel between the US and AS easier should be supported by government agencies.

  8. Let’s not forget South Pacific Island Airways, which operated between 1973 and 1987 with a fleet of four 707’s and three de Havilland Twin Otters. I used to see the occasional Boeing in Anchorage.

    From their base at American Samoa’s Pago Pago International Airport, SPIA served Honolulu, Vancouver, Anchorage, and a host of other destinations including Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Auckland, Rarotonga, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Guam, and three islands in the Northern Marianas.

    So maybe Samoa Airways’ plans to serve L.A. aren’t so far-fetched…

  9. I could see a lot of leisure travellers wanting to take this route- more upmarket than Hawaii but cheaper than Tahiti/ Bora Bora. Clearly they’d need a new aircraft type to operate the route so id be curious if they pick up a 757/767 or a330 for cheap or use a new a321LR.

  10. I don’t see this lasting. Any US government traffic (official or contractors) is going to be required to use HA since it’s an American flagged carrier. Most commerical business is from Asia (the major industry is a Korean owned tuna packing plant) or NZ/AU not the mainland.

    Also, American Samoa is the US Territory where PPG is. Whereas Samoa is the independent country (formerly called Western Samoa).

  11. I don’t see this lasting. Any US government traffic (official or contractors) is going to be required to use HA since it’s an American flagged carrier. Most commerical business is from Asia (the major industry is a Korean owned tuna packing plant) or NZ/AU not the mainland.

    Also, American Samoa is the US Territory where PPG is. Whereas Samoa is the independent country (formerly called Western Samoa) where Samoa Airlines is based at APW.

  12. Cabotage rules, if they need to exist, should be rewritten to account for service nobody else wants to offer. It is difficult to get to American Samoa, and if someone is willing to make it easier, let them.

  13. @DaveS, it’s not that hard to get there. HA flys every other day to and from HNL making it a one connection flight from most major mainland cities (ones that have direct service to HNL).

  14. I mean, this might be a really interesting trip to take. Perhaps they’re going to market it as a unique vacation no one else will have? No idea.

  15. Samoa or American Samoa more up market than Hawaii ROFL! SPIA that brings back great memories, that was the Jetset days❤️

  16. “US cabotage rules” – so there IS government “interference” when it comes to US aviation – hey Delta?

  17. Theres more Samoans in the USA than Australia and NZ put together, I believe its time for both Samoas to come together and make this route and Samoa Airways work and profitable, if other south pacific countries can do it, why cant the Samoans.

  18. It’s a bit surprising that Ben hasn’t been to Samoa. It was The Maldives of the 1950s and ‘60s, with the iconic Aggie Grey Hotel. It has fallen off the radar in recent decades.

  19. Toss some American Samoan subsidies, and it’ll do fine as a 1-2x weekly.
    Tag it onwards like NZ’s LAX-Raro-AKL instead of having it sit, and you might get another crowd to build load factor.

    No competition so far, since its basically HNL-Pago Pago on Hawaiian and HNL-Apia on Fiji Airways.

  20. I’m not surprised. I was in Samoa last year and happened to talk to someone who worked for the airline. He said the government was trying to make Apia a transit hub (despite the geographic disadvantage) and attract more tourists to stopover in Samoa. He said their initial plan was to start a route to Beijing (which is not surprising given that Samoa is the most pro-Beijing country in Oceania, has hundreds of millions of $ investment and aid from China, and Chinese merchants pretty much dominated the retail scene in the country). However it doesn’t seem to be very realistic as a business plan, and I suspect that the government may be borrowing more money from China to expand the airline.

  21. It would be great if the route take off. It’s quite expensive to get to Samoa from Europe. You can find cheap flights to AU/NZ but then onward flight to Samoa cost almost the same as the long haul from Europe.

  22. American Samoa used to be a Pan-Am stop in the old days. One of the first Intercontinental hotels was right there in Pago Pago. However, calling Samoa upmarket is a stretch. There are no full-service hotels or resorts in American Samoa, which is basically a third-world country suffering from American colonialism and corrupt, incompetent local leaders who benefit from feudalism (the upper house of the territorial legislature is only for tribal/village chiefs and non-racial/ethnic Samoans are prohibited from owning any property). Samoa, the independent country, is marginally more developed with some NZ and Australian tourism. But American Samoa has nothing to offer except the world’s busiest McDonald’s. You can’t even get fresh fish anywhere.

  23. @Peter, maybe I should have said “relatively” difficult to get to American Samoa. For a person in Hawaii it might be a simple matter, but to get to Hawaii takes a connection for me, so that’s at least three flights to get to American Samoa. If Samoan served LA, I would have the option to do the trip with a single connection. It is the LA-Samoa non-stop service that would be really nice to see, and that nobody else seems to want to offer.

  24. we need to find anything cheaper then the Hawaiian air offer, is so expensive to from AS to Honolulu. its the same distance from Lax to Hnl. we need to open up the route to all other carrier. if they interesting, that will help our Territory for travel to the mainland. But we need to built up our island like Hotel so the people will like to come and stay. buit up our tourism and clean up our territory, used the funds from united states to built up roads,hospital is a jokes, theres a lot of things need to change at territory our Fono need to vote for the right and qualify person instead of family and friends, raise the government pay, I can not believe the pay is still not even $5. I know cost of living is low but price of food is expensive and price of gasoline high than mainland . the price of automotive is way high, when ask people about their payment I never pay that much here in the state. they take advantage of our peoples, what I see when I was back 2017 the island is full of drugs and surprise me what I heard about some of those peoples involved are our high officer, our Public safety department need to hire qualify people have experiences , there’s lots of money from the united states to help built our territory but they all goes to general funds that’s wher they
    start corrupted, our road is so bad, I love to move back home but I kind na scare our hospital is not in good standard, hope in the near future everything will get better. I love our territory cause we own our land but the government need to do their parts start from governor and his administration, our judge dept need new people there so corrupted, they give too many chance to those committed same crime, like rape, abusive, etc, our judge need to put there feet down and do their job, especially those who rape, or abusive young girls. put them where no sun shine,

  25. Samoa is wanting to attract more tourists from the American market to Samoa via a direct APW-LAX route; especially to utilise Sheraton’s Samoan hotels worldwide booking systems. Tourism now accounts for about 30% of Samoa’s GDP and the government wants to make it 40% within five years. The only way they can do this is through more flights. The upgraded international airport now has more capacity to take flights and SAA dearly wishes to get more flights into the country. Fiji Airways flies direct Nadi-LA so Samoa wants to do something similar for its tourism industry.

    Boeing’s Max-9 incompetence has directly affected Samoa Airway’s growth this year. In my opinion, SA should switch to Airbuses from now on.

    If it can assist American Samoans on the LA route, that would be good too as it’s all about bums on seats. The more demand, the better.

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