HAWAIIAN AIRLINES EYES QUICK RETURN TO PAGO PAGO

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Pacific Islands Report, July 1) – Hawaiian Airlines is hoping to resume direct service to American Samoa as early as Thursday, saying emergency repairs to Pago Pago International Airport could be in place by then.

Meanwhile, the Honolulu airline was continuing talks with neighboring Samoa, which last week approved the temporary use of its airport in Apia.

Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Keoni Wagner said the carrier was poised to fly to Apia today but canceled when the Samoan government demanded a payment of $12,000 for unpaid landing fees dating to the 1980s.

"We can’t find any record of us owning them any money," Wagner said..

Pending unanswered questions about the billing, however, Wagner said Apia might still come into play as a temporary destination. Under that scenario, passengers bound for Pago Pago would fly into Apia and be shuttled to American Samoa by local feeder airlines.

Hawaiian suspended flights to Pago Pago after two of its Boeing 767 aircraft were damaged by debris on the runway during landings about two weeks ago. The runway, near the ocean and exposed to salt spray, had been scheduled for resurfacing next month before heavy rains did further damage.

Wagner said a hurry-up effort to reseal the runway has gone well in recent days.

"We have a couple of guys down there and they feel pretty good that the fix is going to work," he said.

According to the Samoa News, about 13,000 pounds of mail bound for American Samoa has backed up in Honolulu and is growing by about 2,000 pounds daily.

July 1, 2003

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