Poly Air going to Manu'a — 30 day exemption granted
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has granted Polynesian Airlines application for an emergency exemption to operate the territory’s domestic air service, but the initial period of the exemption is only for 30-days.
Polynesian’s request — made Aug. 25 — was to permit the Samoa government airline to transport persons, property, and mail to and from the Manu’a islands for a period of 90 days beginning Sept. 1, 2014.
ASG supported the application, which included a letter from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga. Inter Island also responded that it does not object to the application, but requested that it be allowed to comment if the exemption is more than 90-days.
In a decision issued yesterday, Susan L. Kurland, the USDOT Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, said the federal agency is granting the request for Polynesian’s “proposed intra-American Samoa services” using a 19-seater Twin Otter plane, for a period of 30 days, that is Sept. 1-30, or until five days after a U.S. carrier initiates intra-American Samoa passenger operations, whichever occurs first.
She also said that USDOT is deferring action on the request for operation beyond Sept. 30th. (A footnote in the decision points out that Polynesian has stated that it has no objection for granting of authority for an initial 30-day period, with deferral of the remainder)
“We found that this action met all the relevant criteria [under federal law] for the grant of an exemption of this type, for a period of 30 days, and that the grant was required in the public interest,” Kurland wrote. “The absence of U.S. carrier passenger service while Inter Island Airways’ aircraft is out of service, constitutes an emergency created by unusual circumstances not arising in the normal course of business.”
Based on the record in this proceeding, she said USDOT concluded that no U.S. carrier had aircraft available that could be used to conduct the operations for the Manu’a islands and the federal agency further found that “grant of this authority would prevent unreasonable hardship to the residents of American Samoa.”
According to the decision, USDOT will review this exemption near the end of this 30-day term to see if the unusual circumstances that established the need for the exemption still exist, and will be prepared to decide at that time whether the situation warrants extension of this authority for an additional term.
Further, USDOT found that Polynesian is qualified for its proposed operations, the decision said.
Informed yesterday about the USDOT approval decision, Manu’a Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli told Samoa News that “this a blessing from the Heavenly Father for the people of Manu’a who have been without air service for many weeks.”
“And I am very thankful to Polynesian management for their business decision to serve Manu’a because resumption of air service will further improve the lives of residents in Manu’a,” he said, also thanking USDOT for their expeditious approval.
During a Wednesday hearing, Galeai called on Port Administration and others in the community to send letters of support for Polynesian’s application.
Because the USDOT decision came out early afternoon (local time) yesterday, it wasn’t clear at press time about a flight schedule for Manu’a. Polynesian had stated in its application that service will be for Ofu and Fitiuta airports.