Governor Tells Hawaiian To Withdraw

American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono has told Hawaiian Airlines, the only major airline with regular U.S. service to the island territory, to prepare to withdraw as soon as a replacement airline can be found. The move came amid souring relations brought on by the governor's claims that the airline has overcharged and treated Samoan travelers poorly both onboard Hawaiian's jets and at Pago Pago International Airport. Tulafono said a recent attempt by Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airlines' president and CEO, to use higher fuel costs at Pago Pago as reason for the air carrier's high fares between the Honolulu and Pago Pago route fails to impress. The governor also cited problems with Hawaiian's passenger policies and fees. In other U.S. markets, the governor said Hawaiian charges a $250 penalty for a reservation no-show while in Pago Pago the same penalty is $350. Similarly, to check a piece of excess baggage it costs $80 elsewhere, but $150 per piece for Pago Pago. Change fees for reservations also cost more, Tulafono said, calling Hawaiian's treatment of American Samoans as "blatant discrimination." Tulafono also said that Hawaiian allows refunds for full fare tickets at every other U.S. destination it serves, but not in Pago Pago. Dunkerley disagreed and in a letter to the governor said that Hawaiian has exactly the same approach for its fare rules, refund policies, headset prices and the like at Pago Pago as it does for its mainland flights. Tulafono called that statement "devious" adding that he expressed no concern to Dunkerley for differences in approach but spoke about differences in the charges themselves. The governor then said that it was clear Hawaiian did not understand that the people of American Samoa have reached the point where their tolerance for the airline's abuse is at an end. The governor said the island will seek a replacement air carrier with lower costs, and he wants Hawaiian Airlines to prepare to withdraw from the Honolulu to Pago Pago route as soon as a replacement is found. He said the U.S. Department of Transportation already has in place a procedure for this change. Hawaiian said it had received the governor's letter but had no comment.

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