Samoa Airways

Samoa Airways
Samoa Airways logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1959; 64 years ago (1959) (as Polynesian Airlines)
HubsFaleolo International Airport
Fleet size4
Parent companyGovernment of Samoa
HeadquartersApia, Samoa
Key peopleAlvin Tuala (CEO)

Samoa Airways, formerly Polynesian Airlines, is the state-owned flag carrier airline of Samoa.

The airline was founded in 1959 as "Polynesian Airlines", providing domestic and international flights throughout the South Pacific. International operations were temporarily halted in 2005 and taken over by new airline Polynesian Blue (later Virgin Samoa), before resuming international flights under the new name of "Samoa Airways" in late 2017.

Samoa Airways is wholly owned by the government of Samoa and is based in the capital city of Apia, with its headquarters located in the Samoa National Provident Fund Building on Beach Road and its primary hub at Faleolo International Airport. The airline presently operates short-haul flights within Samoa and American Samoa, as well as long-haul flights to Australia and New Zealand.


Logo for Polynesian Airlines, prior to renaming as "Samoa Airways" in 2017
Polynesian Airlines Percival Prince
Polynesian aircraft at Fuaʻamotu International Airport in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, in 1991.
Polynesian Airlines DHC-6-300 at Fagali'i Airport in 2014.

The airline was established in 1959 as "Polynesian Airlines",[1] and started operations in August that year. By 1969 it was running daily flights to Pago Pago using a Douglas DC-3, as well as services to Tonga and Fiji using a chartered Hawker Siddeley HS 748.[2]

In 2005, the airline's international jet flights were taken over by Polynesian Blue, a new airline established as a joint venture between the government of Samoa and Australian low-cost carrier Virgin Blue. Both the Samoan government and Virgin Blue each held 49% ownership of the new airline with the remaining 2% held by a Samoan investment group.[3] The government of Samoa cited rising operating costs for Polynesian Airlines, which accounted for more than half of the government's annual budget, as one of the main reasons for suspending its international operations. However, Polynesian Airlines continued to operate turboprop flights in Samoa and American Samoa.[4] In 2011, Virgin Blue announced a rebranding of its airline group, with its Samoan subsidiary being renamed "Virgin Samoa".[5]

In 2017, the Samoan government announced that it was closing down Virgin Samoa, citing a lack of competitive fare pricing and disappointing performance.[6][7] In its place, Polynesian Airlines would resume international flights with the new name of "Samoa Airways".[8] The state-owned Samoa Airways partnered with Fiji Airways to assist with international flight operations,[8] and wet-leased a Boeing 737-800 from Italian airline Neos in a deal brokered by Icelandair.[9] International flights recommenced on 14 November 2017, with Samoa Airways flying from Apia to Auckland.[10]


As of October 2020, Samoa Airways operates to the following destinations (including former destinations):[11]

Country/Territory City Airport Notes Refs
American Samoa Fitiuta Fitiuta Airport
Ofu Ofu Airport
Pago Pago Pago Pago International Airport
Australia Brisbane Brisbane Airport Terminated
Melbourne Melbourne Airport Terminated
Sydney Sydney Airport Terminated
Cook Islands Rarotonga Rarotonga International Airport Terminated
French Polynesia Papeete Fa'a'ā International Airport Terminated
Samoa Apia Fagali'i Airport Terminated
Faleolo International Airport Hub
Savai'i Maota Airport [12]
New Zealand Auckland Auckland Airport Terminated
Wellington Wellington Airport Terminated [1]
Niue Alofi Niue International Airport Terminated
Tonga Nuku'alofa Fua'amotu International Airport Terminated
United States Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Terminated
Los Angeles Los Angeles International Airport Terminated


The Samoa Airways fleet comprises the following aircraft as of August 2021:[13][14][15]

Samoa Airways fleet
Aircraft In
Orders Passengers Notes
C Y Total
de Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter 3 1 19 19
Total 3 1

A Boeing 737 MAX 9 was ordered and was to be delivered in April 2019,[16] however the order was cancelled in the wake of the March 2019 worldwide Boeing 737 MAX groundings.[17]

Previously operated

As Polynesian Airlines, the airline previously operated the following aircraft:[18][19]

Samoa Airways former fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Boeing 727-200 1 1987 1992 Leased from Ansett Australia
Boeing 737-200 1 1981 1987
Boeing 737-300 1 1999 1999 Leased from Qantas
1 2001 2001
Boeing 737-300QC 1 1993 1994
Boeing 767-200ER 1 1994 1994 Leased from Kuwait Airways
Boeing 767-300ER 1 1993 1994 Leased from Air Canada
Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander 3 1969 2011
de Havilland Canada 8-100 1 2004 2007
Douglas C-47 Skytrain 3 1963 1970
Douglas C-54 Skymaster 1 1968 1969
GAF Nomad 1 1978 1987
Hawker Siddeley HS 748 2 1972 1982
Percival Prince 3 1959 1963

Accidents and incidents

  • On 11 May 1966 at around 18:10 local time, the three crew members operating a Polynesian Airlines Douglas DC-3 with the registration 5W-FAB on training flight lost control of the aircraft over the Apolima Strait after the cabin entry door detached and hit the tail. The aircraft was on a training flight, the three crew members were the only people on board; all three were killed in the subsequent crash.[20]
  • On 13 January 1970 at 02:54 local time, Polynesian Airlines Flight 208B, which was operated by a Douglas DC-3D (registered 5W-FAC), crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Faleolo International Airport on an international non-scheduled passenger flight to Pago Pago International Airport, American Samoa, killing the 29 passengers and three crew on board.[21]
  • On 20 August 1988, a Polynesian Airlines Britten-Norman BN-2A Islander (registered 5W-FAF) was damaged beyond repair when it overshot the runway upon landing at Asau Airport; there were no fatalities.[22]
  • On 13 September 1994, a Polynesian Airlines Boeing 737-3Q8 operating Flight PH844 from Fuaʻamotu International Airport to Faleolo International Airport discovered the body of a deceased male stowaway was jamming the starboard carriageway. At 6:00, after 3.5 hours of maneuvers attempting to dislodge the body, the flight made an emergency landing at Faleolo using only the nosewheel and port undercarriage. All 72 occupants survived with minimal damage to the aircraft.[23][24] Eyewitness and author Ruperake Petaia wrote The Miracle[25] based on a number of passenger accounts of the event.
  • On 7 January 1997 at around 11:00 local time, a Polynesian Airlines de Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter crashed into Mount Vaea in Samoa during bad weather conditions, a so-called controlled flight into terrain. The aircraft had been operating Flight 211 from Pago Pago to Apia, when the pilots decided to divert to Faleolo Airport. In the crash, two of three passengers and one of the two pilots lost their lives.[26]


  1. ^ a b Samoa Airways. "About Samoa Airways". Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  2. ^ "WESTERN SAMOA HAS AN AIRWAYS BOOM". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. 40, no. 11. 1 November 1969. p. 35. Retrieved 13 August 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "Virgin Blue picks up Samoa flights". CNN. 14 July 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Virgin Blue, Samoa form joint airline". The Age. 14 July 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Polynesian Blue to become Virgin Samoa". Australian Aviation. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Govt. drops Virgin". Samoa Observer. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Virgin Australia mulling over next step in Samoa". Radio New Zealand. 23 May 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b Schofield, Adrian (7 July 2017). "Fiji Airways, Samoan Government Set Up Joint Venture". Aviation Week. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Samoa Airways eyes B737 MAX equipment down the line". ch-aviation. 21 September 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Samoa Airways adds maiden aircraft, launches". ch-aviation. 14 November 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  11. ^ Samoa Airways. "Destinations We Fly To". Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  12. ^ Liu, Jim (21 August 2020). "Samoa Airways resumes Apia – Savai'i from late-August 2020". Routesonline.
  13. ^ Samoa Airways (6 February 2018). "Expression of Interest - Pilots". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Samoa Airways to wet-lease 737-800 from Malindo".
  15. ^ "Samoa Airways Fleet Details and History". Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  16. ^ "Samoa Airways to lease one B737 MAX 9 from ALC". 18 January 2019.
  17. ^ Tom Boon (25 March 2019). "Samoa Airways To Cancel Boeing 737 MAX Delivery From Lessor". Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  18. ^ "Polynesian Airlines Fleet Details and History". Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  19. ^ "Polynesian Airlines". Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  20. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas R4D-5 (DC-3) 5W-FAB Apolima Strait". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  21. ^ "Douglas C-47B-45-DK (DC-3D) 5W-FAC accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  22. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Britten-Norman BN-2A Islander 5W-FAF Asau Airport (AAU)". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  23. ^ Ranter, Harro. "Accident Boeing 737-3Q8 5W-ILF, 13 Sep 1994". Retrieved 2021-10-01.
  24. ^ "Vol. 64 No. 12 ( Dec. 1, 1994)". Trove. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  25. ^ Petaia, Ruperake (2013). The Miracle. Ruperake Petaia. ISBN 9781301251636.
  26. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 5W-FAU Apia-Fagali'i Airport (FGI)". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 14 August 2015.

External links

  • Samoa Airways
  • Information about Polynesian Airlines
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