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By Fili Sagapolutele Special to the Pacific islands Report

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (April 26, 2000)---A commuter airline based in American Samoa is seeking the government of Samoa’s approval for landing rights at Asau airstrip on Samoa's big island of Savai‘i.

If the application is granted, Samoa Air's station manager in Apia, Billy Meredith, said the carrier will start providing charter flights from Pago Pago International Airport to the airstrip on the western side of Savai‘i.

In a telephone interview from Samoa's capital of Apia, Meredith said their 21-day notice seeking landing rights on Asau on a charter basis is in the hands of the government and, if granted, would serve the needs of StarKist Samoa.

StarKist Samoa is currently negotiating with the Samoa government and the Asau Village Council to set up a processing plant in the independent state.

The airline tested the Asau runway with a StarKist Samoa charter flight two weeks ago. The plane landed at Maota Airport first, on the eastern side of Savai‘i, to clear customs and immigration before proceeding on to Asau.

The airline could use this route to serve Asau now, but Meredith said it would be a cost saving measure if non-stop charter service to Asau is granted. He said the market is not sufficiently large for regularly scheduled air service.

If the Samoa government grants Samoa Air's application, it will pave the way for the setting up of immigration and customs services in Asau and the government to declare the airport an international port of entry from American Samoa.

Samoa Air was first grant landing rights to Maota some two years ago during the term of the late former Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana. It made Maota an international airport, the third port of entry to Samoa from the territory besides Fagalii and Faleolo airports on Samoa's main island of Upolu.

Besides Maota Airport, Samoa Air currently provides daily air service to the Manu‘a Islands group and Fagalii and Faleolo utilizing two twin-otter aircraft.

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