Will Samoa Airways Order Widebodies To Fly To Los Angeles?

Apia based Samoa Airways have some big plans in the pipeline. Announced today, the airline plans to begin flying to Los Angeles (LAX), although it hasn’t indicated when this might happen. Trouble is, the carrier has no aircraft capable of making the trip. So how will Samoa Airways get to LAX?

Samoa Airways
Samoa Airways wants to go to Los Angeles. Photo: Samoa Airways

Reported today by CH-Aviation, American Samoa governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga confirmed to local broadcaster Talanei the carrier’s intention to begin flying to Los Angeles. In order to bypass the US cabotage rules, the route would go from Pago Pago (PPG) first to Apia Faleolo (APW) before heading on to LAX.

If Samoa Airways did indeed begin a PPG-LAX service, it could open up some very interesting possibilities for flights between the US and Australasia. Air Tahiti Nui has made solid profits out of shipping people from the US to New Zealand with a wonderful stopover in Tahiti on the way; perhaps Pago Pago or Apia could work just as well.

Samoa Airways route
The proposed Samoa Airways route. Image: GCMap

Right now, there are no flights between Samoa and the continental US. Some airlines do provide service to Pago Pago and Apia, but only via other destinations. For example, Hawaiian Airlines flies between Honolulu and Pago Pago, although with somewhat limited service. Fiji Airways also connect to Hawaii via Samoa, flying Nadi to Apia and on to Honolulu. Again, this is on a pretty sparse schedule.

This means that, should the Samoa Airways route take off, there could be a good level of interest in the service. But there’s one big problem for the island airline to overcome – it doesn’t have an aircraft capable of making the flight.

Why Samoa can’t fly to Los Angeles

Right now, Samoa Airways has just four aircraft in its fleet. Three are De Haviland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter turboprops, more suited to island hopping than covering any distance. The other is a lone 737-800, currently on lease from Malindo Air until the end of the year. The reason for this lease? Because Samoa was waiting for a shiny new MAX.

Samoa Airways MAX
The Samoa Airways 737 MAX 9 that never arrived. Photo: Samoa Airways

Would the MAX, when it arrived, be capable of making the trip? In short – no. The 737 MAX 9 the airline had on order has a range of around 3,515 nmi, falling several hundred miles short of the required 4,155nmi to reach LAX. Regardless of this, it’s now a moot point anyway as Samoa canceled their MAX order following the grounding of the type.

Clearly, if this route is ever to become a reality, Samoa are going to need a new bird.

What could Samoa use to get to LAX?

The A330neo could comfortably make the trip, as could its larger brother the A350. However, the large capacity of the XWB would likely be unnecessary, so we’d put our money on the A330neo from the Airbus stable of widebodies.

Over at Boeing, there’s a similar choice. The 787 would be an ideal selection for the route; not too big, highly efficient and more than capable of operating the route. However, a new Dreamliner doesn’t come cheap.

Range of A321XLR
Range of A321XLR from PPG. Image: GCMap

There is another option on the table, however. The recently announced A321XLR has a published range which would just about put LAX within reach of the islands. Although making such a long trip on a narrowbody comes with its own sets of issues (mainly for the crew on board), it could work, and would probably make more sense given the lower purchase price and likely thin-ish demand for the route.

What do you think? Will Samoa Airways ever fly to LAX? What will they use? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.