Hawaiian Seeks Federal Help in Samoa

Honolulu-based Hawaiian Airlines is asking the U.S. Department of Transportation for a declaratory order regarding the legal effect of an executive order issued by the governor of American Samoa. It also has asked that the government of American Samoa be given the opportunity to take part. In its request, Hawaiian maintains that an executive order issued late last month by Gov. Togiola Tulafono is local in nature, and is preempted by the federal Transportation Act because American Samoa is a U.S. territory. For its part, the government of American Samoa says Hawaiian Airlines is using its "monopoly position to force the people of the islands of American Samoa and their visitors to pay airfares for transport to Honolulu at almost twice what it charges on an annual average for air transports between other United States destinations it serves." The order also states that the government spent the first six months of this year obtaining from Hawaiian "recognition that the people of American Samoa can no longer tolerate these abuses of their monopoly position." In closing, the order gives Hawaiian Airlines 90-day notice that a substitute carrier will be sought to provide service between Pago Pago and Honolulu, with a provision for 30-day extensions if a replacement hasn't been found. Thereafter, the order states, a second order will be issued banning Hawaiian from entering the territory. Hawaiian notes in its petition that it has operated flights to American Samoa since 1984, after the DOT revoked the operating certificate of the previous carrier, South Pacific Island Airways. It says the DOT sought an emergency replacement to provide essential lift to American Samoa, and chose and approved Hawaiian to do so. Hawaiian says that over the last 22 years, other carriers entering the market subsequently withdrew for financial reasons, and Hawaiian is the only carrier serving the territory from the U.S.

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