5 Apr 2007

US Department of Transportation rules against American Samoa's governor

6:57 am on 5 April 2007

The United States Department of Transportation or DOT has ruled that American Samoa can not regulate airline services between there and any other US state or territory because of the Airline Deregulation Act.

The ruling is in response to Hawaiian Airlines petition to DOT last August that American Samoa may not bar the airline from operating flights between Honolulu and Pago.

The petition was filed after Governor Togiola Tulafono issued an executive order in July setting a timeframe barring the carrier from operating flights on the Honolulu-Pago Pago route after a replacement carrier is found.

Tulafono issued the order following his dissatisfaction with the quality and price of Hawaiian's service and the airline's alleged mistreatment of American Samoan travelers.

In their 14-page ruling, DOT says a preemption provision in the Airline Deregulation Act overrides the Governor's authority over border control and customs matters at American Samoa, the basis for his claim that he may bar Hawaiian from continuing to serve the Territory.

Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner says the DOT ruling confirms its understanding of the law and it can now put this behind it and focus on the future.