Hope in sight — Sega'ula may relaunch for Ofu service
Depending on Federal Aviation Administration inspection and the acquisition of liability insurance under Inter Island Airways, the ASG Sega’ula aircraft will be re-branded under the banner of “Manu’a Air” with the hope of launching Ofu air service in August this year, says Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, the governor’s executive assistant.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga met last Friday morning in Honolulu with Inter Island Air official Barney Sene to discuss the airline’s revised and final proposal for the lease to purchase option for the Sega'ula.
One of the governor’s goals for such an agreement with Inter Island is for roundtrip airfares to drop below $150 to and from Ofu airport, which has been without commercial air service for some three years.
Some details on the outcome of the Honolulu meeting were shared Sunday night by Iulogologo responding to media questions.
Among the outcomes of the meeting, said Iulogologo, is that Sene is to revise the memorandum of understanding between the two parties in hopes of signing the MOU on July 16, during the Manu’a Flag Day, which is when the island group celebrates their 109th year since the former island kingdom was ceded to the United States and became part of American Samoa.
“Depending on the FAA inspection of the Sega’ula and acquiring insurance under the Inter-Island Airways operating umbrella, service to Ofu will begin August 15th,” he said via e-mail from Honolulu. “The Sega'ula will be re-branded under the banner of Manu'a Air.”
He says specifics of the MOU are being worked out and reiterated that the Sega'ula will be on a “lease to purchase option, which will be executed after 12 months of operation at a price based on the market value of the plane at the time the option to purchase is activated.”
The name Manu’a Air was once a locally owned airline operating Manu’a flights using a 9-passenger seater plane, identical to the capacity of the Sega’ula. The former Manu’a Air Transport company operated at a time when the now defunct South Pacific Island Airways was also operating flights to and from Manu’a.
ASG records included in a 2009 proposal filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation states that for the past 20 years, Manu’a Islands’ residents have seen the failure of three local airlines serving their community.
South Pacific Island Airways (SPIA) was the first airline to serve the islands from 1973 to 1987, when its operations were closed, said ASG.
Manu’a Air Transport — operating under the name Manu’a Air — was the second airline to serve the Manu’a Islands from 1984 until its operations closed in 1992. Samoa Air was the third airline to serve the Manu’a Islands from 1987 until 2003, when their operations also closed down.
Without any U.S. carrier, Polynesian Airlines was granted a federal waiver to operate Manu’a flights in 2003 and 2004, when Inter Island Airways began operations.