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Governor Lolo asks Eni to help resolve cabotage waiver issue

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni has been asked by the Lolo Administration to look into a cabotage waiver from the federal government which would allow a foreign carrier, such as Polynesian Airlines, to operate domestic flights when none are available here.


The cabotage waiver issue was among matters of discussion last week during Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s meeting with territorial leaders, which included Interior Department’s executive director of the Office of Insular Affairs, Nikolao Pula.


During a news conference Wednesday, the governor spoke about exploring options to reduce airfares between Honolulu and Pago Pago and one option was ASG buying shares into the Honolulu based carrier.


The governor was asked by the media if the administration was looking into seeking a federal cabotage waiver that would allow a foreign carrier to operate between Pago Pago and other U.S. cities.


Lolo responded that the cabotage waiver was the first issue taken up with Faleomavaega during last week’s territorial leaders meeting, where he was sake “if there is a way we can get a waiver on the cabotage issue”.


“In fact one of the first issues to explore is if we can give Polynesian a waiver to fly if our own local airline cannot fly to Manu’a. That was the beginning of the discussion,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to get a waiver for an airline to serve our needs if there is no other carrier at the time.”


He says the Congressman is well aware of cabotage matters and therefore it was taken up with Faleomavaega, and he was asked to look into this important matter.


In March this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted a 30-day waiver, which expired Apr. 21, for Apia, Samoa based Samoa Air to “conduct services limited to the emergency medical transportation of passengers and/or cargo” between Tutuila and Manu’a.


Samoa News understands that Samoa Air was never able to utilize this waiver and federal public records do not show at this time that the airline had re-applied for an extension.


USDOT in years past had granted cabotage waivers to the Samoa government owned Polynesian Airlines to operate Manu’a flights when the now defunct (and locally based) Samoa Air was down, and  when the airline finally no longer operated in the territory.


The Togiola Administration had looked at seeking a waiver to allow Pacific airlines, such as Air Zealand and Air Pacific to operate in and out of Pago Pago to the U.S. The goal of the previous administration was to get sufficient air service to and from the U.S. to expedite economic development, especially in tourism, and to also help bring down airfares.


Former Gov. Togiola Tulafono had raised the waiver issue several times during meetings of the federal Interagency Group in Insular Areas (IGIA). During his last meeting as governor in March last year, Togiola pointed to the lack of action on Insular Area exemptions from USDOT air service cabotage restrictions, “which have been raised every year by American Samoa.”


A draft report on the territory’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy released last August calls for resolving the cabotage waiver issue, saying that air transport service to and from the US is severely restricted by US cabotage laws that prohibit foreign carriers from transporting passengers between American Samoa and other parts of the US.