Talofa Airways asks for exemption

Talofa Airways has filed an “emergency exemption” with the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) to continue flying into American Samoa after the Samoa Government pulled out of a multi-nation open-sky agreement.

The request by the local airline to the USDOT was submitted last week by the airline's lawyer,  Jonathon Marrin. 

Their permit was issued in October 2016, made possible under the Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalization of International Air Transportation (MALIAT), in which both the United States and Samoa are parties prior to the former withdrawing.

The MALIAT seeks to promote open skies air services arrangements  which was negotiated on October 30 - November 2, 2000 at Kona, Hawaii and was signed in Washington D.C. on May 1, 2001. Other countries who are part of the MALIAT are Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Cook Islands, Mongolia, New Zealand, Samoa, Singapore, Tonga and the United States of America.

The Protocol provides for parties to exchange seventh freedom passenger and cabotage rights an open route schedule; open traffic rights including seventh freedom cargo services; open capacity; airline investment provisions which focus on effective control and principal place of business, but protect against flag of convenience carriers; multiple airline designation; third-country code-sharing; and a minimal tariff filing regime.

According to the application by Talofa Airways on March 9, 2019, the Samoa Government will be formally withdrawing as a party to the MALIAT, the air service agreement upon which the Department’s prior approval of Talofa Airways’ current permit authority is based. 

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“Given the impending withdrawal of the Independent State of Samoa from the MALIAT, Talofa Airways asks that the Department promptly issue an emergency exemption to continue in effect the traffic rights which Talofa Airways currently is authorized to charter foreign air transportation of persons, property and mail” between the two Samoa’s, USA and any other point or point, in either case with small aircraft. 

“Talofa Airways requests that the exemption, which is the subject of this emergency application, be granted for a duration of no less than one year.” 

Furthermore, Samoa Airways noted the Samoa Government has recently confirmed to the US Government, through diplomatic note, its position that comity and reciprocity should form the basis for approving, and continuing in effect existing, carrier operating authorizations in the US-Samoa air services market after March 9, 2019. 

“Given the position of the Independent State of Samoa, above, the exemption authority requested herein by Talofa Airways should be granted. 

“Grant of the requested authority also is in the public interest, as it will ensure continuity of air commerce between the Independent State of Samoa and the United States, including but not limited to ensuring that scheduled air services at remote, island communities are not disrupted.” 

As of yesterday, the USDOT was yet to issue a response to the application. 

Attempts by the Samoa Observer to get comments from the airline in question were unsuccessful as of press time. 

Ministry of Works Infrastructure and Transportation Chief Executive Officer, Magele Hoe, did not respond to questions on why Samoa is pulling out of MALIAT. 

It is unclear at this stage whether Samoa Airways has also filed for an emergency exemption similar to the one filed by Talofa Airways. 

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