USDOT approves Samoa Airways Manu’a route into Feb. 2021
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a decision issued yesterday, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) granted a cabotage waiver requested by the Samoa government owned Polynesian Limited, dba, Samoa Airways to continue operating Manu’a flights for another 180-days from yesterday, Aug. 6th through Feb. 8, 2021.
The approval comes at a time when some Manu’a travelers have complained about the increase in airfares between Tutuila and the Manu’a islands.
Samoa Airways, in it’s July 22nd application to USDOT explained that the current situation has not changed and there is no US carrier service for the intra-American Samoa route and without a renewal of the cabotage exemption, the airline would be forced to suspend this service.
It also notes that ASG has requested that Samoa Airways continue to provide emergency service between Pago Pago and the Manu’a Islands to prevent American Samoan residents from being left without air service. Samoa Airways has agreed to ASG’s request, and is prepared and willing to continue operations.
“Samoa Airways’ Manu’a-Pago Pago service is critical to the health and safety of Manu’a residents. Samoa Airways’ flights are the only air link available to island residents,” the application states. “As a result, Samoa Airways is regularly called upon to transport patients seeking hospital care in Pago Pago in addition to emergency medical evacuation.”
The application also states that Samoa Airways transports numerous passengers weekly seeking medical treatment at LBJ hospital on Tutuila, and it has performed multiple medical evacuation flights for more seriously ill passengers.
“Without Samoa Airways’ service, all of these passengers would be forced to travel to Pago Pago by boat, which requires a sixty-mile journey through frequently rough seas. It is essential that this exemption be extended for the safety and health of Manu’a Islands residents,” according to the airline’s application.
A footnote in the application states that due to COVID-19 restrictions, air service by Samoa Airways between Pago Pago and Apia has been suspended.
Samoa Airways said it will continue to operate up to twice-daily flights between Pago Pago and the Manu’a Islands depending on the needs of island residents and shippers and aircraft availability as well as medical evacuation and other emergency flights as needed.
Samoa Airways says that since approval of its exemption, the airline has transported approximately 200-300 passengers monthly between Pago Pago and the Manu’a Islands, demonstrating the need for its service.
According to Samoa Airways’ website, there are two-weekly flights from Tutuila to Fitiuta Airport on Ta’u island on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and one flight to Ofu Airport operating on Fridays.
As the approval is granted by USDOT, some Manu’a residents have complained about the increase in the airfares offered by Samoa Airways claiming that the one-way fare used to be about $90 but it’s now close to $200. And they have since taken their complaints to their Manu’a lawmakers, to address what they describe as a “serious financial matter”.
Local airline officials have told Samoa News in the past that all scheduling and airfares are set by the airline’s main office in Apia, Samoa.
Commercial flights were suspended about three months ago, per directive by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, preventing people from traveling by air between the islands, as American Samoa is under the COVID-19 emergency declaration.
(Samoa News points out that according to social media postings, alia traffic between the islands continued.)
Later, the government operated charters with Samoa Airways for emergency purposes and medivac for critical patients.
But as the governor’s current Sixth Amended Declaration became effective July 1st, more local restrictions have been lifted and this has allowed commercial flights to resume for Manu’a, according to ASG officials.