Hawaiian Air agrees to suspend flights to Pago through August
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — As the number of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii continue to increase, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has requested that Hawaiian Airlines again agree to suspend flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago — this time through Aug. 31st.
The Honolulu-based carrier is however, operating a Medical Charter flight on July 21st, through the American Samoa Medicaid Office. (See Samoa News edition July 10th for details.)
As of 12noon, July 15th, Hawaii health authorities reported 29 new coronavirus cases bringing the state’s total to 1,292 and the deaths up to 22, according to the state’s health department website.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Monday this week announced that he would wait another month to waive a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers who test negative for COVID-19, citing increasing virus cases in Hawaii, “uncontrolled” outbreaks in several U.S. mainland states and a shortage of testing supplies, according to The Associated Press. The testing plan announced last moth, was scheduled to take effect Aug. 1st. It’s now postponed to Sept. 1st.
In a July 15th letter to Hawaiian’s president and chief executive officer Peter Ingram, the governor expressed appreciation for the airline’s “unwavering and unrelenting support over our border closure protocol” which makes it possible for the territory to remain COVID-19 free “amidst the continued spikes in coronavirus cases in the [U.S] mainland and Hawaii’s erratic COVID-19 status.”
Lolo had hoped that Hawaii would maintain control of its coronavirus situation exhibited in May and early June, but recent changes caused Ige “to reinstitute some restrictions.”
“Given the unstable situation in Hawaii, I am compelled to continue our border closure through the month of August,” Lolo wrote to Ingram. “This decision will certainly place extreme stress on our American Samoa residents... stranded in Hawaii” and some on the US mainland.
Lolo expressed appreciation to Ingram for “approval of our request for a Medical Charter which will evacuate many of our critically ill patients and our college bound students. Fortunately, there is remaining room for U.S. residents on the medical flight scheduled for July 21, who have been stranded here to return home.”
“Thank you very much for your tolerance and patience. We are very appreciative of your willingness to help us protect the lives of our people,” Lolo
Hawaiian spokesperson, Ann Botticelli told Samoa News yesterday from Honolulu that the airline has granted the governor’s request.
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” on flights for American Samoa through Aug. 31st.
The current exemption expires July 31st, and a new USDOT decision is expected in the coming days.
The latest move by the governor to continue to suspend flights until the end of August comes amid mounting calls for Lolo to re-open Hawaii flights so local residents can return home. Hawaiian’s last flight between Honolulu and Pago Pago was on Mar. 26th before the borders closed.