Samoa-Sydney capacity surges as Virgin Australia competes against start-up Samoa Airways

Competition has intensified significantly on the Apia-Sydney route following the launch of new flag carrier Samoa Airways.


Summary

  • Apia-Sydney capacity has doubled year over year from two to four weekly frequencies;
  • Virgin Australia and start-up Samoa Airways are now competing on the route following the dissolution of Virgin Blue, the former JV between Virgin Australia and the Samoan government;
  • Fares remain relatively high despite the fact the route is now competitive.

Government owned Samoa Airways commenced operations in Nov-2017, with six weekly flights to Auckland and two weekly flights to Sydney. The Apia-Auckland route, which is also served by Air New Zealand, was upgraded to daily in Dec-2017.

Capacity on the Apia-Auckland route is flat year over year as Samoa Airways has essentially replaced a service previously operated by Virgin Blue. Virgin Blue, a joint venture between the Samoa government and Virgin Australia, served as the flag carrier for Samoa from 2005 until the JV was dissolved in Nov-2017.

See related report: New Samoan airline to take over Virgin Samoa routes with potential assistance from Fiji Airways

However, capacity on the Apia-Sydney route has roughly doubled as Virgin Australia and Samoa Airways have both launched the route. Virgin Australia and Samoa Airways are each currently operating two weekly flights on Apia-Sydney, with 737-800s, for a total of four weekly flights, compared to the total of two flights operated by Virgin Blue the same time a year ago.

Virgin Blue had been the only competitor on the Apia-Sydney route for several years, operating between one and three weekly flights depending on the time of year. Virgin Australia has taken over Virgin Blue’s schedule and will offer a third frequency during peak periods in 2018. For example, for the entire month of April there will be five weekly flights on the route (three from Virgin Australia and two from Samoa Airways) compared to a total of three weekly flights in Apr-2017.

Apia to Sydney one-way weekly frequencies: Sep-2011 to Apr-2018

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation & OAG

Virgin Australia has also launched services from Apia to Brisbane, the third route which was previously operated by Virgin Blue. However, Samoa Airways is not serving Brisbane – at least for the time being. Therefore, Apia-Brisbane capacity is flat. Virgin Australia’s Apia-Brisbane schedule is the same as Virgin Blue’s schedule of one to two weekly flights depending on the time of year.

Despite the higher levels of capacity, fares in the Apia-Sydney market remain relatively high. Virgin Australia and Samoa Airways online fares between Sydney and Apia start at approximately AUD800 return including taxes for travel in April.