Polynesian Airlines is the national airline of Samoa and has its headquarters in the Samoa National Provident Fund Building in the capital, Apia. It formerly flew all over the Pacific but with the establishment of Polynesian Blue by the government and Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia), Polynesian Airlines has restricted itself to shorter flights to neighbouring islands. Its main base is Fagali'i Airport, Apia.
The airline was established in 1959 and started operations in August 1959 with services between Apia and Pago Pago in American Samoa using a Percival Prince aircraft. The government of Western Samoa acquired a controlling interest in 1971. In 1982 Ansett Airlines of Australia signed a five year management contract with the government to run the airline. This was extended for a further ten years in 1987. In February 1995 a commercial alliance with Air New Zealand was signed to develop marketing, sales and operational relationships. International jet operations have been taken over by Polynesian Blue. The airline is wholly owned by the Government of Samoa, which also has a 49% holding in Polynesian Blue.
On 11 May 1966 at around 18:10 local time, the three crew members operating a Polynesian Airlines Douglas R4D-5 (registered 5W-FAB) on training flight lost control of the aircraft when a door separated mid-flight over the Apolima Strait, by which the vertical stabilizer was damaged. There were no survivors of the subsequent crash.
On 7 January 1997 at around 11:00 local time, a Polynesian Airlines Twin Otter crashed into Mount Vaea in Samoa during bad weather conditions, a so-called controlled flight into terrain. The aircraft had been operating Flight 211 from Pago Pago to Apia, when the pilots decided to divert to Faleolo Airport. In the crash, two of three passengers and one of the two pilots lost their lives.