Talofa Airways applies to extend Pago operations
Talofa Airways has made an application to extend their license to operate domestic flights within American Samoa for another six months.
The application, dated 10 November 2020, was submitted to the United States Department of Transportation (D.O.T.). It is seeking a six-month renewal of its exemption under federal regulations.
Under American laws, foreign carriers are normally forbidden from serving domestic routes.
But in the past, the Department of Transportation says it granted the exemption to Talofa Airways because there are no US carriers serving American Samoa’s domestic market nor do American carriers had aircraft available to serve the route, leaving citizens without air transportation.
A previous extension granted by the D.O.T. to the airline is set to expire before the end of the month, on 24 November.
“Although Talofa Airways had planned to initiate service at the end of October, it has not yet been able to base aircraft and crew in Pago Pago due to restrictions in place from the American Samoa Government related to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the company’s application reads.
“Grant of this renewed exemption authority continues to be in the public interest, meets the applicable statutory criteria and is consistent with [departmental] precedent.
“Safe, efficient travel between Pago Pago and the Manu’a Islands remains critical for the people of American Samoa.
“The people of the Manu’a Islands use the aviation link between Tutuila and the Manu’a Islands to access critical services including healthcare. Allowing Talofa Airways to supplement the service already provided by Samoa Airways will give residents of American Samoa continued options to access these critical services.”
Talofa Airway says that basing aircraft and crew in Pago Pago is necessary for the carrier to provide its air service and that it stands ready to do so if it receives Government approval.
“By renewing this exemption for a period of 180 days, the Department will allow Talofa Airways to be in a position to rapidly initiate and maintain in place for the [...] period [of] its planned service of up to two daily flights, Monday through Friday,” the application says.
Currently, no American airliners service the territory’s market; the last U.S. carrier to service the service had its authorisation revoked in 2017, Talofa argued.
“Talofa Airways plans to initiate the service as proposed in its initial application - Monday through Friday service from Pago Pago to the island of Ta’u, in the Manu’a Islands, with up to two flights on each such day using its 9-seat Twin Commander 690B aircraft and possibly adding service should conditions warrant,” the application reads.
“Ferry service continues to be an unreliable alternative to air transportation for residents of American Samoa for travel to or from the Manu’a Islands.”