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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (June 7, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---Hawaiian Airlines' new third weekly flight to American Samoa later this month will give the U.S. Postal service some "lead way" in uplifting the mail from Honolulu.

The Honolulu-based carrier currently provides two weekly flights, Mondays and Fridays, to American Samoa. And the airline announced in late April the adding of a third flight during the summer when travel to the territory is at its peak.

One June 1st, Hawaiian Airlines also launched its second daily flight between Honolulu and San Francisco.

The third flight to American Samoa will operate on a Thursdays starting June 22nd and will continue until August 24th. The new flight will operate on the same time schedule as the two current flights, departing Honolulu at 5:10 p.m. and arriving at 9:30 p.m. The return flight will depart the territory at 11:05 p.m. and arrive in Honolulu the following day at 5:30 a.m.

Besides the Christmas holiday, when the airline also adds extra flights, the summer travel to the territory is a busy time with returning students and delegations attending meetings here.

The largest delegation now planning to travel to the territory involves members of the CCCAS. Its annual conference is scheduled at Kanana Fou in July.

Hawaiian's third weekly flight would give "some lead way" for the Postal Service in getting mail to the territory, says Post Master Smitty McMoore. Already there is a backlog of mail bound for the territory left behind in Honolulu due to the limited cargo space on Hawaiian Airlines' passenger service flights.

Some of the backlog of mail will arrived on June 10th, in two containers that contain priority and first class mail. "I feel for our people, especially those who paid for the priority and first class mail. But cargo space is limited on Hawaiian Airlines," said McMoore.

The two containers of backlog mail include priority and first class mail that needs to be moved by the postal service. "We have priority mail that contains medicine and it’s important that it arrives here, but space is limited on Hawaiian Airlines," said McMoore on Friday.

Kitty Hawk's weekly cargo flights were a great asset not only to local merchants but also to the U.S. Postal Service. But since Kitty Hawk pulled out of the market and filed for bankruptcy the Postal Service has been faced with very limited shipping resources. The post office has "close to none" when it comes to cargo space availability on Hawaiian Airlines, said McMoore.

Evergreen International, which now has entered the market, is providing a much-needed service for local businesses, but they are not contracted by the Postal Service. However, negotiations now are under way between the Postal Service and Evergreen that could lead to a formal contract to uplift the mail.

Sources said on Friday that the Postal Service is also negotiating with other air carriers to stop in the territory to bring the U.S. mail from California and Honolulu to American Samoa.

Last week Monday, Hawaiian Airlines carried about 4,000 pounds of mail, but by Friday the mail for the territory will increase again. For example, by Friday mail for American Samoa is projected to total close to 20,000 pounds.

The local Post Office on Saturday confirmed that Hawaiian Airlines uplifted mail but the total weight was not announced. A spokesperson said there were a lot of envelopes but a very limited number of parcels shipped. The exact size of the mail backlog in Honolulu could not be confirmed on Saturday.

With limited commercial air service to remote Pacific islands, American Samoa is not alone in having a backlog of mail. The Marshall Islands faced a similar situation not too long ago and its citizens banned together and urged their representative in Washington D.C. to have Congressional members intervene, which helped resolve the issue.

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