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Postal Service Charters Flights Until Wednesday

By Scott Radway Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (September 18, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---The U.S. Postal Service on Guam is back in business and delivering its mail.

Faced with a ban on sending its mail on passenger planes, the postal service chartered cargo planes, mainly used to carry fresh tuna, to ferry its mail on and off the island.

"The mail is starting to move," Guam Postmaster Tony San Nicolas said yesterday. "The only question is how long can we continuously charter flights. It is very costly."

On Sunday, a cargo plane left Guam with 8,000 pounds of mail -- about a third of what has piled up here -- headed to Hawai‘i and beyond, San Nicolas said. That flight returned with some of the 33,000 pounds of Guam-bound mail that has been stuck in Hawai‘i, he added.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States last week, the Federal Aviation Administration barred mail from being transported on passenger flights, the method normally used to get mail on and off island, San Nicolas said.

But with the planes chartered from Asia Pacific Airlines, the mail is back on track, San Nicolas said, adding that in the next few days he expects all grounded parcels to be shipped to and from Guam.

But San Nicolas warned that people should understand the high volume could delay final delivery.

"People need to be patient," he said.

Private couriers, such as DHL and FedEx, also are back in business after the FAA cleared them to use passenger flights, said Greg Dornon, DHL Guam general manager.

Dornon explained that private couriers have security measures that essentially enable them to see what's in every package. The FAA cleared them for passenger flights yesterday morning, he said.

But the post office handles too many packages for that type of security measure, Dornon said.

The postal service only is permitted to send letters or envelopes under 16 ounces on a passenger plane, San Nicolas said.

Delegate Robert Underwood's staff said yesterday it is positive news that the mail was beginning to circulate, but Underwood still wants an exemption that would allow Guam to send and receive mail on passenger flights. The FAA has granted Alaska a special exemption and Hawai‘i and Puerto Rico were granted special arrangements as well.

The issue at hand is cost. Chartering cargo planes is expensive, said San Nicolas, although he could not provide exact numbers yesterday. The postmaster said at this point, planes have been chartered only until Wednesday in hopes that the federal ban will be lifted.

Also increasing the cost impact is that it appears the postal service must pay passenger airlines for carrying mail, whether mail is sent on their planes or not, according to Vince Leon Guerrero, director of Underwood's Guam office.

"Whether they carry it or not, commercial airliners still will be paid," Leon Guerrero said. "That is a big concern."

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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