17 Jan 2020

American Samoa's governor prepared to file lawsuit over cabotage waiver

3:13 pm on 17 January 2020

American Samoa's governor is prepared to file a lawsuit against the US Department of Transportation, if his request for a cabotage waiver for Samoa Airways is denied.

Samoa Airways Boeing 727-800 aircraft

Photo: Supplied

Lolo Matalasi Moliga wants the Samoa government-owned airline to carry passengers between Pago Pago and Honolulu, as well as the US mainland.

Cabotage rules prevent foreign carriers from operating between two US airports.

In a statement to the Fono, Lolo said the viability of local fisheries was being threatened and the economic future of American Samoa was in jeopardy, which required drastic action.

Lolo has written to the US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of Transportation requesting the waiver.

Lolo Matalasi Moliga at his State of the Territory address.

Lolo Matalasi Moliga. Photo: RNZI / Monica Miller

He said if the request was denied a lawsuit would then be filed against the agency for purposely restricting the territory of its ability to grow the economy and for discrimination.

The Governor's Office said there had been no response to the request yet.

The governor's executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereria, said the governor was pursuing the "cabotage issue seriously because of the impact it has on our people and economic development efforts of the territory, given the continued escalation in airfares".

American Samoa has long complained of the high airfares between Honolulu and Pago Pago offered by Hawaiian Airlines. Leaders have claimed the fares were making it difficult to boost the local tourism industry.