There is more than a new identity applied to the Virgin Samoa 737 announced by the Government of Samoa this morning. It’s got tatts!
It is also believed to be among the top earning 737s of the world, having earned more than $20 million a year for its owners, the Samoa Government (49%) Virgin Blue Airlines (49%) and the legendary Aggie Grey’s Resort and Hotel (2%).
The partnership between Virgin Blue and Samoa began in 2005 when a deal to launch a single 737-800 as a jointly owned Polynesian Blue operation conducted by New Zealand based VBA (now VAH) subsidiary Pacific Blue took over the network previously flown by Polynesian Airlines.
Until that point Polynesian Airlines had been a huge burden on the economy of Samoa, losing substantial sums of money in part through very costly leases of jets with premium cabins that rarely generated the fares or occupancy levels required to make commercial sense.
Run as a well promoted economy class cabin using the low cost base of Pacific Blue changed everything. Samoa kept the continuity of having its own flag carrier, but began saving tens of millions of dollars that reverted to medical care, education and other community services, while Samoans and tourists alike responded to attractive air fares and leisure packages that lifted its national fortunes.
The new identity that now takes over from Polynesian Blue comes at the same time as Pacific Blue is rebranded Virgin Australia, completing the integration of Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue and V Australia into the one brand.
And the jet, which keeps the name Tapu’itea, is adorned with engine tattoos by traditional Samoan tattoo artist Tuifa’asisina Tolouena Sua.
Which makes it a jet with serious ink.