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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (June 26, 2002 – Samoa News)---Samoa Air is exploring the possibility of re-establishing flights to the neighboring island nation of Niue.

A business plan is to be transmitted to the Niue government.

The Tutuila-based carrier operated weekly flights to Niue's capital of Alofi several years ago, when Samoa Air was under the ownership of Connie and James Porter.

The commuter carrier later terminated weekly flights and operated on a requested charter basis only.

However, the current owner of Samoa Air, South Seas Group, Inc., is looking at the resumption of flights to Niue.

Niue has seen a downturn in tourism because of the loss of its direct air link to Auckland early last year.

Currently, Royal Tonga Air provides weekly service between Nuku‘alofa and Alofi only.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Samoa Air's chief executive officer, Andre Lavigne, said there has been one meeting with the Deputy Minister of Aviation for Niue.

"It was exploratory. The planning of Samoa Air was reviewed and the needs of Niue were presented," said Lavigne. "A full business plan will be sent to Niue this week."

Samoa Air intends to make the carrier "the regional airline of the Pacific. This would have us link all the island groups together," said Lavigne in response to whether the carrier is looking at linking to other island groups such as the Cook Islands and Fiji.

With the expansion of its regional service, Samoa Air would need additional aircraft added to its current fleet of two Twin-Otter planes.

"We are looking at regional airliners and have begun preliminary negotiations," Lavigne said regarding aircraft fleet expansion.

Niue is affectionately known as "The Rock of Polynesia" and is one of the largest upraised coral atolls in the world, according to the country's Office of Tourism.

Niue, with a population of about 2,500, is located 2,400 kilometers (1,440 miles) northeast of New Zealand, on the eastern side of the International Dateline.

The Samoan Islands have long standing ties with Niue that came through the missionaries from the London Missionary Society.

Niue chiefs gained status as a British Protectorate in 1900 and in 1901 Niue was annexed to New Zealand. In 1974 Niue gained independence in free association with New Zealand. Niue follows a Westminster-style government with a 20-member Assembly.

Last year was Niue's Centennial celebration, attended by Governor Tauese Sunia.

While in Niue, Tauese met with the Samoan community there to consider possible trading partners.

The Samoan community of Niue expressed interest in exporting fish and taro, noting that Niue taro (talo Niue) is the most popular of taro species for Samoans.

Trading and tourism would improve between American Samoa and Niue if Samoa Air is successful in establishing a direct air link.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

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