Samoa Airways will begin services to Auckland next week after its owner, the Samoan government, had a messy bust-up with Virgin Australia which used to fly the route.

The new airline will fly six times a week between Apia and Auckland from next Tuesday, stepping up to daily from December 17.

Samoa Airways is using a Boeing 737-800 leased from Icelandair Group with 170 seats, including eight in business class.

Last month the Samoan government refused an application by Virgin Australia to fly five times a week, affecting about 6000 passengers and causing concern in the travel industry about reduced competition on the route.


Virgin's twice-weekly return services from Sydney to Apia and weekly return service from Brisbane will go ahead as planned from November 13, but it has said it was surprised at the end of its 12-year-old deal with the Samoan government to fly to New Zealand.

Marketing and communication specialist for Samoa Airways, Dwayne Bentley, said he couldn't comment on the dispute with Virgin Australia.

"We're just making sure that we get off the ground on November 14 and looking after our customers to provide a safe travel environment," he said.

Virgin Australia asked the Australian government to work with its Samoan counterpart to reconsider the decision to block its flights, and the airline had offered refunds or flights via Australia for those affected.

Bentley said his airline had picked up some passengers who had been refunded by Virgin.
He said Samoa Airways was a full service airline that offered economy class passengers a meal and 7kg of carry-on and 23kg of checked baggage.

It will be equipped with AirFi's portable wireless in-flight entertainment, allowing passengers with their own devices to watch movies.

Samoa Airways' leased 737 being repainted in Prague. Photo / Supplied
Samoa Airways' leased 737 being repainted in Prague. Photo / Supplied

Icelandair Group has experience in this region previously, leasing lanes to Air Niugini. The 737 is due to arrive in Samoa on Saturday after being repainted in Prague and running through checks in Milan.

As part of the lease deal, there will be technical and cabin crew from Europe who would work on the plane initially, while local pilots and about 20 flight attendants were being trained and certified. This could take about six months.


Bentley has worked for Polynesian Airlines, a predecessor of the new airline, and for Samoa's tourist authority.

Tourism in Samoa is running strongly. There were about 145,000 visitors to the country last year, a 5 per cent increase on the previous year.

He said the government-owned carrier would work closely with local tourism operators to create packages for visitors.

Air New Zealand is boosting its capacity by 20 per cent over summer, using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners on the Auckland-Apia route between four and six times a week.