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Pago to LA flights would not address local air transport problems

A non stop flight between Pago Pago and Los Angeles is expensive and the possibility of attracting competition for such a route is also expensive, according to UBM Aviation-ASM or Airport Strategy Marketing Limited, the Washington D.C. based company contracted by ASG to conduct the federally funded air transport market study for American Samoa.


The study looked at a wide range of air transportation services to and from American Samoa including direct flights between Pago Pago and Los Angeles — so travelers, who are heading to the U.S. mainland, can avoid having to go through Honolulu.


Travel between Pago Pago and the U.S. West Coast is “even more expensive and inconvenient” than Pago Pago-Honolulu route, the study says, but also points out that Hawaiian Airlines’ Honolulu flights offer few connections to the U.S mainland in less than 4 hours.


Estimated average one-way fares from Pago Pago through Honolulu in 2012 were $895 for Los Angeles International Airport - the most popular destination, and for other West Coast cities, ranged between $808 each way for Portland and $1,102 for San Diego, the study says.


(Hawaiian operates flights between Honolulu and these three west coast airports cited in the study. While the study does not provide details of how it reached the one-way fare, an official says the average fares do not include any taxes and comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation database OD1B which is publicly available.)


“The prospects for Pago Pago-Los Angeles nonstop service are more difficult than attracting Pago Pago-Honolulu competition,” the study says. “Even assuming there would be market stimulation if nonstop service were available, Pago Pago-Los Angeles passenger numbers are modest for a long-haul, widebody route.”


According to the study, the Pago Pago-Los Angles range is relatively long at 4,781 miles and would require more than 9 hours flying time, versus 2,600 miles and about 5.5 hours for Pago Pago-Honolulu. That length of flight requires an aircraft at least as large as the B767-300ER that Hawaiian uses for its Pago Pago service.


It also explains that most other long-range, widebody aircraft models operated in significant numbers by US airlines - A330, B747 and B777 - are larger than the B767-300ER. Additionally, efficient B787-8s are about equal in size, but they are very expensive and not yet available in significant numbers. In a few years, 787s could make Pago Pago-Los Angeles nonstop service worth evaluating.


“Hawaiian, with its lucrative position in the Pago Pago market and its hub at Honolulu, has no interest in the Los Angeles nonstop route,” the study points out, adding that the megacarriers - United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines - have large Los Angeles networks “but they also are not interested right now in the Los Angeles-Pago Pago nonstop.”


The study also points to another problem, which is the FAA required flight crew rest period.


“The crew rest problem for Honolulu-Pago Page service is even worse for the Los Angeles-Pago Pago route, where both pilots and flights attendants would need to lay over until the next flight, making weekly or even twice-weekly service inefficient,” it says. “All of these megacarriers are far more likely to consider American Samoa service via Honolulu rather than nonstop.”


According to the study, FAA crew rest regulations require the airline either to overnight pilots in Pago Pago or carry two extra pilots (heavy crew) for the two-person cockpit. Hawaiian Airlines chooses the heavy crew rather than have pilots stay over in Pago Pago, where they would stay for three or four days and nights between flights.


Hawaiian operates two weekly flights year-round between Honolulu and Pago Pago with a third weekly during the summer months and Christmas/New Year holiday season.