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Governor extends suspension of Hawaiian flights through Sept. 30

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
He says he is not oblivious to stranded residents’ pleas to return home

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Suspension of Hawaiian Airlines flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago — currently valid through Aug. 31st — will continue through Sept. 30th, following another request from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who points to the continued increase in COVID-19 cases in Hawaii and several US mainland states.

Hawaiian Airlines “will be abiding by the governorʻs request and keep our service suspended through the end of September,” airline spokesperson Alex DaSilva said yesterday morning from Honolulu responding to Samoa News’ inquiries.

As of 12-noon, Sunday, Aug. 16th, Hawaii health authorities reported 220 new cases bringing the state’s total to 5,042, while deaths increased to 40, according to Hawaii Health Department data, which also shows that Honolulu county on the island of Oahu continues with the highest number of cases reaching 4,591. The highest number of cases recorded in the state for one-day was 355 last week Thursday.

In requesting the continued suspension of flights, the governor — in an Aug. 14th letter to the airline’s president and chief executive officer Peter Ingram — points out that Hawaii’s “recent escalation” in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases with “equal exacerbation” in US mainland states “is rather disconcerting thus fortifying my decision to continue our border closing restrictions through the month of September.”

The governor explained that he has “struggled to find an acceptable medium to strike a balance between returning to some level of normalcy and protecting lives, [but] our limited healthcare infrastructural limitations continue to compel the adoption of the border closure option.”

He said the airline has been a true partner “who shares our concerns to protect the lives of all residents of American Samoa despite the pressure from our stranded residents clamoring to return home.”

“We are certainly not oblivious to our residents’ earnest pleas and yearning to return home, but from our perspective, they are in a better place to seek medical assistance and sophisticated healthcare if the inevitable were to happen to anyone of them,” the governor notes.

Lolo said American Samoa is very grateful for the unwavering support from Ingram and the Hawaiian Airlines organization given that the company’s financial viability has grossly eroded with the continued suspension of flights to the territory.

Copies of the governor’s letter were also sent to leaders of the Fono and the Judicial Branch.

The governor’s letter became public yesterday when Hawaiian filed with the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) a request to extend the airline’s “exemption from service obligation” from the federal CARES Act.  A new USDOT decision is expected in the coming days