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Frequent Flyer website editor disagrees with new ASG travel policy

The editor and publisher of a website dedicated to the use of airline frequent flyers miles appears to disagree with Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s new policy that ASG employees, whose travel is paid for by ASG, will have their Hawaiian Airlines’ frequent flyer miles deposited into a corporate account.


The reason given for the new policy is so the miles earned may be used to help patients seeking off-island medical care and students attending off island educational programs.


Tim Winship of told Samoa News that the federal government had tried to implement a similar policy, but then scrapped it.


“For a time, until around 2001, the U.S. federal government required that federal workers use any miles earned for business travel be used for business travel. The policy was deemed ineffective and scrapped,” he via e-mail responding to Samoa News inquiries.


Asked for his thoughts on the matter, Winship referred Samoa News to his blog posted on the website, where he says that there is no doubt earmarking airline miles for charitable purposes seems like a laudable effort.


“But forcibly taking those miles from the government workers who earned them crosses a line that exists for a good reason,” he said.


“As any road-tested business traveler will tell you, traveling on company business is a hardship. Long days. Uncomfortable flights. Delays. Bad food. Nights and weekends spent away from home and family. And at the end of the month, there’s no extra money in the paycheck to show for the extra work and aggravation,” he said.


“What there is, courtesy of the airlines, is a few frequent flyer miles. Think of it as hazard pay. Travelers feel they are entitled to the miles, and organizations are generally happy to concede the point. Not American Samoa, however,” he said.


Winship told The Associated Press that he hasn't heard of anyone taking the idea as far as American Samoa has with its new policy.


Winship said it's an uncomfortable stretch for Lolo to call government travel a privilege (referring to the governor saying in his memo that it’s "morally wrong" for employees to get extra benefits from the privilege of traveling as a government employee.)


“At the very least, you can expect there to be a lot of disgruntled passengers — a lot of disgruntled (American Samoa) employees," Winship said. "Calling travel on business a privilege, you're going to get some pretty frequent pushback from travelers on that characterization."


There hasn’t been much reaction from ASG employees on the new policy while comments received by Samoa News on the website about this policy all agree to it — and congratulate the governor for implementing it.


“It is taxpayers money being spent on government employees traveling on government expenses. The tax payers should have a say in how their money is spent by their government,” said one commentator.