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Saturday 6 February 2016 | Published in Regional


auckland – A meeting is underway in New Zealand to discuss an airline agreement between Polynesian Airlines and Air Tahit Nui.

Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, is leading a delegation from Samoa.

Fonotoe and his delegation will meet with French Polynesia President Eduard Fritch to discuss the next step of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two airlines for flights to, from and beyond Samoa.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna is also attending the meeting to see how his country can benefit from the arrangement. The Samoa Observer understands that Tonga is also represented.

Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe is accompanied by the Chief airline, airport and tourism officials.

Fritch is accompanied by the chairman and CEO of Air Tahiti Nui, Michel Monvoisin, the Minister of Economic Development, Teva Rofritch and the Special Advisor for Pacific Island Affairs for French Polynesia, Manuel Terai.

The MOU between Polynesian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui was signed towards the end of last year and was announced by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

Hailing the agreement as a “historic achievement,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the deal reflects the true spirit of Polynesian cooperation and brotherhood.

“It is in line with the Polynesian Leaders Group’s vision of connecting all Polynesian countries with the larger metropolitan centres, with which much of our trade occurs,” he said. “Air services are vital for Polynesian countries and this is an excellent opportunity to showcase what we have to offer.”

For Samoa, Tuilaepa said the relationship with Tahiti “opens Samoa up to Asia, North America and Europe directly”.

“This partnership will indeed provide the much-needed tourism resolve that we so desperately need. This opens us up to the USA and the European markets directly in terms of trade and tourism which is untapped for Samoa from those destinations due to the lack of direct flights.

“This partnership also gives us options to Asia through Narita, Japan, allowing our growing and very mobile Asian workforce to travel to anywhere in Asia.

“Additionally it gives our business people better connectivity and lower landing costs. Our fish exports will certainly benefit from lower freight costs for their exports as will our business community.”

If all goes according to plan, the proposed Air Tahiti Nui Polynesian Airlines joint services will begin with a once weekly Tahiti-Samoa-Japan-Samoa-Tahiti service.

There will also be a Los Angeles-Apia-Auckland-Apia-Los Angeles flight twice a week, utilizing one of Air Tahiti Nuis’ five Aerobus A340-300 jets which currently can seat 30 in Business Class and 264 in economy class.

Air Tahiti Nui is a global player with twice daily flights to Los Angeles from Tahiti, daily flights to Paris, three flights a week to Auckland and twice weekly flights to Narita, Japan.

Air Tahiti Nui also has a domestic arm in Air Tahiti, which services 41 domestic airports within the French Territories 118 Islands using a fleet of 12 ATR Twin Turbo Prop Aircraft. It also services the Cook Islands from Tahiti once a week using an ATR Twin Turbo Prop Aircraft.

- Samoa Observer