Samoa Airways terminates lease for unwanted B737-800

Samoa Airways has paid USD4.6 million to FLY Aircraft Holdings Eighteen Ltd, an SPV for Carlyle Aviation Partners, as a penalty for the termination of a rejected B737-800 lease, the Samoa Observer has reported.

5W-TFL (msn 42805) was leased by the previous government in mid-2021 and was set to become Samoa Airways' first in-house narrowbody aircraft. However, on coming to power, the new administration immediately warned that it saw no need for the lease and moved to terminate it. The aircraft was only ferried as far as Brisbane Int'l, and although it was registered in Samoa, it never once landed on the island. It was deregistered and ferried back to Montpellier in early 2022, even as discussions about compensation for the early termination of the lease were ongoing. Ultimately, the government negotiated the penalty down from the WST160 million (USD59 million) initially demanded by the lessor.

The aircraft has since found a new operator in Australia where it is due to become VH-MFM with Rex - Regional Express (ZL, Wagga Wagga), although it has yet to leave Montpellier or be registered in Australia.

Samoa Airways does not plan to add any other narrowbody aircraft and will no longer operate medium-haul services to Australia and New Zealand. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it relied on a B737-800 wet-leased first from Neos Air (NO, Milan Malpensa) and then from Malindo Air (OD, Kuala Lumpur Int'l). The airline's current fleet is limited to three DHC-6-300s, of which only two are active