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ASG RFP outlines options to increase air service

fili@samoanews.com

American Samoa Government prefers to consider five possible approaches to increasing air passenger and cargo service to and from American Samoa, according to the Request for Proposal (RFP), which also outlines details of the options for consideration.

The RFP — issued by the Office of Procurement — seeks a  firm or firms as consultants to conduct the “Air Transport Marketing Study” project funded by the federal government. The advertisement began on May 3rd in the Samoa News.

The five options for consideration all hang on getting U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) approval and point to examples when such orders or approvals were issued.

STOPOVER RIGHTS

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) may grant stopover rights at U.S. domestic airports to foreign carriers. For example, on a route between Auckland and Los Angeles, a foreign carrier can carry foreign and U.S. passengers with a Pago Pago stopover. In either direction, the passengers — both foreign and U.S. — will be able to stop in Pago Pago for a temporary stay.

ASG says there may be possibilities for stopover and transfer authority in American Samoa for foreign carriers as there is for other areas of the U.S. where foreign carriers already have the right to stopover and transfer passengers.

For example, USDOT in past orders have granted Alaska, Hawai’i, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, “expanded stopover, transfer and co-terminalization authority for foreign carriers serving their airports.”

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has hinted in the past of a stopover in Pago Pago by Air Zealand (from Auckland)  or Air Pacific (out of Nadi, Fiji) to and from Los Angeles.

FOREIGN CARGO TRANSFER RIGHTS

ASG says passenger stopover rights might be combined with foreign cargo transfer rights to “enhance the economic benefits for foreign carriers to stopover in Pago Pago”. For example, a foreign carrier might carry cargo from Auckland to Pago Pago for further transport by regional carriers to other islands outside of American Samoa.

However, if a foreign carrier were to carry U.S. cargo from Los Angeles to Pago Pago for similar foreign destinations, the foreign distribution must be with that airline’s aircraft and crew, unless another authorization applies to supplement the permissible service — something which has been done in the past.

CODE SHARING

ASG discussed at length the code-sharing scheme, which is a commercial agreement where two or more airlines agree to share, for marketing purposes, the same code used to identify carriers in the airline computer reservation systems.

Such an agreement, in effect, allows two carriers to offer a new service route, to benefit from each other’s marketing network and to develop more traffic together, all with less financial risk than each if each were to act alone, said ASG.

For example, under code sharing, a foreign carrier together with a U.S. carrier could jointly market air service between Pago Pago and Los Angeles. By instituting their service to and connecting with their respective service at Pago Pago under a code share, the foreign and U.S. carriers can develop the desired market with considerable cost savings to each other.

ASG points out that this type of agreement can also include air cargo services.

According to ASG, the direct benefits from such passenger and cargo service will be:

•            greater air service for residents and businesses in American Samoa;

•            expanded air services to assist public health, safety and security concerns;

•            economic, job and service growth in Pago Pago as a transshipment, interconnection point;

•             lower air passenger and cargo costs for people not only in American Samoa but throughout the region;

•            wider access to services and goods from the U.S.;

•            increased opportunity to export U.S. products and service in the region; and

•            closer U.S. diplomatic and business relationships with previously overlooked island nations in the Eastern Pacific.

ALASKA STATUTORY PROVISION

According to ASG, foreign carriers arriving in Alaska can now apply for the USDOT’s discretionary authorization to transport foreign cargo to Alaska and transfer that cargo to another foreigner carrier — or to a U.S. carrier — for transport to a foreign destination.

Under code sharing a second foreign carrier could even combine the foreign cargo with U.S. cargo — from a U.S. carrier — in Alaska for transport to foreign destination, said ASG, adding that the special Alaska statutory provision is set by federal law and a similar one for American Samoa would require congressional legislation.

AIR SERVICE & ACCESS FOR SMALL AND RURAL COMMUNITIES

Among the top policy goals for the USDOT Office of Aviation and International Affairs is the improvement of air service and access for small and rural communities in the context of opening markets and providing community benefits, said ASG.

And the three primary goals of this office at USDOT are: liberalizing international air services by seeking market liberalization; ensuring the benefits of a deregulated, competitive domestic airline industry; and developing policies to improve air services and/or access to the commercial small and rural communities.

“In pursuit of these goals, USDOT has expanded foreign air service for other communities throughout the U.S,” said ASG.



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