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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Jan. 3) - The Samoa government has denied Inter Island Airways' request for a third extension of its Foreign Air Operation (FAO) Certificate to operate in and out of Faleolo International Airport.

The denial has led to the carrier suspending its flights on the inter Samoa route.

[PIR editor’s note: Inter Island Airways, based in the American Samoa capitol of Pago Pago, has operated as an "on-demand" charter service among the territory’s islands since 1993.]

The first extension was up November 30, 2006 and the second extension expired December 31. Inter Island Air was then informed last week by the Samoa government that another extension of its FAO has been denied.

The airline operated inter-Samoa flights up to late Sunday.

The Samoa government wants Inter Island to obtain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification to operate scheduled services instead of its current status of on-demand charter service to carry both passengers and cargo/bags.

Airline officials said the carrier is trying to accommodate returning passengers on either Polynesian Airlines or South Pacific Express (SPEX) while efforts are being made through the proper diplomatic channels to obtain authorization to operate into Samoa.

Samoa News understands that the airline has made contact with Congressman Faleomavaega's office as well as the U.S. State Department to assist in this matter.

"We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience as we work on resolving this issue," an airline official said yesterday. "Until these matters come to a positive conclusion, our flights to and from Samoa are suspended temporarily."

A Senate report last month noted with concern that Inter Island has not secured appropriate certification to fully operate as a scheduled carrier. The report urged the assistance of both ASG and FAA in getting the locally based airline the proper certification.

Meanwhile, Inter Island continues to provide daily flights to the Manu'a Island group with extra flights being added to accommodate the busy route.

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