|September 15, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—FALEOMAVAEGA SUPPORTS GOVERNOR’S REQUEST TO SEEK FAA EXEMPTION FOR POLYNESIA AIR TO PROVIDE IMMEDIATE AIR SERVICE TO MANU’A|
Faleomavaega announced today that he is supporting Governor Togiola’s decision
to seek a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exemption which would allow
Polynesian Airlines to fly the domestic inter-island routes between the
islands of American Samoa.
“On Friday September 12, 2003, I received a letter in my Washington office from Governor Togiola requesting my assistance in seeking an exemption from the FAA for Polynesian Air to provide immediate air service to Manu’a,” the Congressman said. “On Monday September 15, 2003, I forwarded a letter of support to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the Honorable Norman Mineta.”
“In fairness to Samoa Air, my office also had lengthy discussions with the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding its application. During these discussions, several concerns were raised including the fact that the FAA is not familiar with Air National, the foreign charter service with which Samoa Air wishes to enter into a lease agreement. In and of itself, this has raised serious safety concerns which would take some time to review and resolve.”
“Two, Samoa Air’s desire to be a party to a lease agreement with Air National raises questions about whether or not a cabotage exemption could or should be granted. In brief, cabotage exemptions are granted only in the absence of a U.S. carrier and it is my understanding that if Samoa Air remains party to the lease agreement then there is no clear absence of a U.S. carrier and no basis for a cabotage exemption.”
“Three, it is my understanding that Samoa Air is facing financial difficulties and this has raised questions about where the people of Manu’a will be 60 days from now if exemptions were granted to an airline that is not financially solvent. While I am not privy to the specific details regarding Samoa Air’s finances,” Faleomavaega said, “it is my understanding that a third party has expressed an interest in assuming an equity position in Samoa Air and in helping Samoa Air secure a lease agreement with Air National.”
“However, it is also my understanding that neither the third party nor Samoa Air is able to finance this lease agreement without the financial support of the American Samoa Government (ASG). Last week, the third party informed my office that it had requested financial support from ASG for purposes of helping Samoa Air enter into a lease agreement with Air National and, on September 12, 2003, the third party also informed my office that ASG had turned down this proposal.”
“Given the complications with Samoa Air’s application and the urgency to do right by the people of Manu’a who have been put at unnecessary risk as a result of this crisis, I agree with the Governor that the only alternative we have at this time is to support Polynesian Air’s application. Like the Governor, I am hopeful that Samoa Air will be able to resolve its financial difficulties and resume air service between the islands as quickly as possible. Until then, I commend the Governor for his leadership in aggressively working to resolve this crisis and I am hopeful that Secretary Mineta will expedite our request so that the people of Manu’a may avoid further harm in the event of an emergency,” the Congressman concluded.
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