Airline group criticizes Samoa governor
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa » The Washington-based Air Transport Association says American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono's attempt to bar Hawaiian Airlines from flying to and from the U.S. territory is "an illegal and misguided attempt to regulate air fares."
The ATA, which represents major U.S. airlines, filed its position with the U.S. Transportation Department on Hawaiian's request for relief from the governor's executive order barring the carrier from flying its regularly scheduled flight into Pago Pago.
Tulafono has complained that Hawaiian, the only airline serving the route, charges too much and poorly serves passengers flying to and from the U.S. territory.
"By threatening to deny access (to Hawaiian Airlines) and announcing his intent to seek replacement air service, Gov. Tulafono apparently believes that he can obtain more favorable terms for the citizens of American Samoa wishing to travel by air," said ATA's assistant general counsel, Katherine B. Andrus.
The ATA noted that Tulafono cited the customs and border control authority delegated by the U.S. president and made part of the American Samoa Constitution.
Even if the governor were merely trying to rely on the territory's authority over the Pago Pago International Airport, his action still would not be legal, the ATA said.
Several federal grants to the airport require that it be available for public use without unreasonable restrictions, she said.
More than 150 comments have been filed so far, including Tulafono's, which maintains territorial government must follow the imperatives of its own jurisdictional responsibilities imposed by Congress.