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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, May 6) - Samoa could be the next destination for Delta Air Lines, after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) granted the carrier a "blanket open-skies authority" to operate between the U.S. and several foreign countries that have open sky agreements with the United States.

DOT's decision was based on applications by Delta and other U.S. carriers responding to DOT's April 3 notice.

Several carriers including Hawaiian Airlines applied and on Monday, DOT's director of Office of International Aviation Paul L. Gretch, released the decision on Delta's application.

It is not known at this time whether or not any other airlines were approved.

"We find that grant of the certificate is consistent with public convenience and necessity," said Gretch in his 9-page decision. "All of the authority conferred here contributes to the variety of price and service options available to travelers and shippers."

DOT found that Delta is a U.S. carrier and is fit, willing and able to perform the foreign air transportation services, for persons, property and mail.

According to DOT its order for Delta is effective 61 days after final approval by the U.S. President or his designee, which was done on Apr. 27.

Efforts to obtain comments from the Altanta-based Delta Air as to when it plans to operate flights to and from Samoa were unsuccessful yesterday.

Granting approval to Delta to operate in and out of Samoa is based on the fact that the Independent State is among the countries which are signatory to Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalization of International Air Transportation (MALIAT) agreement.

Because of the MALIAT agreement, to which the U.S. is a party, Delta is also given blanket open-skies authority to operate in and out of Tonga, New Zealand and Cook Islands, according to the DOT decision.

Meanwhile, Delta said on Monday that the carrier emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy following a successful and efficient 19-month restructuring.

A bankruptcy court in New York approved on Apr. 25 Delta's exit from bankruptcy when the court entered a confirmation order of the airline's Plan of Reorganization.

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