Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (August 28) – The government of Guam continues to use preciously spare resources, time and energy in an attempt to get the federal government to grant the island an exemption to passenger cabotage, an unlikely, if not impossible, quest.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Wikipedia Online, cabotage is the transport of goods or passengers between two points in the same country.]

The latest effort was the adoption of Resolution 179, which, according to Sen. Jesse Lujan, who is running for re-election, "encourages the airport authority board to answer and object to the tentative ruling (of the Department of Transportation), and describes Guam's request as reasonable, in context of Guam's political status."

The United States recently issued a tentative ruling that would give an exemption to foreign airlines transporting cargo between Guam and other U.S. airports.

But the federal government has made it clear that it won't grant exemptions to passenger cabotage, which means carrying airline passengers on flights originating and terminating within the boundaries of a country, according to the Department of Transportation. The United States, like other countries, doesn't allow foreign airlines to service domestic routes.

Proponents of the passenger cabotage exemption call it pursuit of "open skies" and argue that it will mean more local jobs and increase airline competition, which will result in lower airfares.

But what it all comes down to is supply and demand. There just isn't enough passenger traffic to and from Guam to warrant service by other airlines. If there were, the many U.S. airlines that have the ability to provide service to Guam would do so; it's just not profitable to provide that service. That's why it also costs more to fly to and from Guam -- the amount of traffic necessary to translate into lower airfares just doesn't exist.

Furthermore, granting exemptions to passenger cabotage to foreign airlines would ultimately result in fewer local jobs. Foreign airlines have fewer employees based in Guam than do domestic airlines. There would be no reason for these foreign carriers to significantly increase their locally based workforce, and any additional employees are unlikely to be local hires.

Senators and other government officials need to concentrate their efforts on the important issues facing Guam -- balancing the budget, paying off government debt, improving health care and education, etc. -- instead of continuing to waste limited resources in pursuit of an exemption to passenger cabotage.

August 28, 2006

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