Am. Samoa backs Samoa Airways' America plans

The American Samoa Government is pushing for a waiver to U.S. regulations to allow Samoa Airways to carry passengers between Pago Pago and Honolulu and America.

The American territory's Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has also threatened to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation if the request to waive "cabotage" requirements for the national carrier is denied.

In the Governor's State of the Territory Address delivered in Parliament this week, Lolo said the viability of the fisheries’ industry is being threatened from many fronts, placing the economic future of American Samoa is in jeopardy.  

“[This] necessitates exploration and implementation of drastic actions and accordingly, I have dispatched letters to President Trump and the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Honorable Elaine Chao requesting a waiver allowing Samoa Air to pick up passengers in American Samoa destined for Hawaii and the mainland," Lolo said. 

"If this request is denied, I have alerted our Washington D.C. consultants to prepare to file suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation for purposely restricting our ability to grow our economy and displaying discrimination against our people".

American law prohibits foreign airlines from carrying passengers and cargo between two U.S. airports.

E-mails to the Samoa Airways C.E.O. Seiuli Alvin Tuala were not answered as of press time for comments.

To date the Samoa Airways is continuing its operations by operating a Boeing 737-800 belonging to Malaysia's Malindo Air on a wet-lease arrangement. 

The six-month extension has allowed it to continue to service its routes to Australia (Sydney and Brisbane) and New Zealand (Auckland) after its plans to lease a plane long-term were hit by the global grounding of Boeing 737-Max models. 

Last August, Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Selafi Purcell said direct flights from American Samoa to America, Lautafi said those are the long term plans they have proposed. 

“We are looking having direct flights but it’s from Samoa to America, the American Samoans are complaining about the expensive airfares and again, these plans will be possible when we do secure a long term lease," Lautafi at the time.

Lolo has long argued that the development of tourism — targeting visitors from the US — has been hampered by the high airfares between Pago Pago and Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines.

He has previously tried to bring more passengers between Pago Pago and Honolulu as well as the US mainland without success.

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