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Interisland Island Airways wants to service Pago-Apia

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, America Samoa (Samoa News, April 4, 2009) - The U.S. Department of Transportation records confirm that Inter Island Airways has been granted a "commuter air carrier" certificate allowing the locally based carrier to operate both "scheduled and charter flights."

Since a Samoa News story early this week, about statements made by Rep. Galumalemana Bill Satele on the House floor that Inter Island is a "charter" airline, not a schedule carrier, like the Samoa government owned Polynesian Airlines, Samoa News has received comments from those both disputing and supporting Galumalemana’s claim.

Rep. Vaitoa Hans Langkilde told Samoa News this week Inter Island’s executive vice president Barney Sene had told the House Transportation Committee early last month the airline has been given a "commuter" certification by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Vaitoa believes this is different than the charter certification and he maintains Inter Island is properly certified to operate the Inter Samoa route without the two-daily flight limitation imposed by the Samoa government.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Mr. Sene confirmed on Thursday Inter Island was granted "commuter air carrier" status by the US Department of Transportation in 2007. He says this designation allows Inter Island Airways to operate both "scheduled and charter flights".

A check of DOT/FAA documents also confirms commuter licenses allow the carrier to operate both scheduled and charter service.

(This information can be found on by searching for ‘commuter air carrier authority’. It’s listed under the first document as: ECONOMIC AUTHORITY - DOT CERTIFICATES AND EXEMPTIONS)

Prior to the Commuter Air Carrier authority by DOT, Inter Island was operating under an "air taxi (on-demand) authority" or "charter".

Because Inter Island is a U.S. carrier, the airline goes through stringent FAA certification for safety and compliance to aircraft, personnel and other minimum "technical" requirements.

Industry sources said DOT grants the authority of how an airline will operate (type of operation) based on airline fitness to do business financially and historically.

The Inter Island issue came up because of a House Concurrent Resolution, which was approved by the House and later the Senate, that extends support to Inter Island by supporting the U.S. federal government’s request to the Samoa government to "lift the restrictions on its[Inter Island] landing rights and allow full operations for travel between the two Samoas."

Additionally, the resolution calls on Gov. Togiola Tulafono "to have dialogue with the government of Samoa and advocate the removal of the restrictions placed on Inter Island Airways’ operations" to Samoa.

"On behalf of Inter Island Airways, I would like to personally thank the entire Fono for their unanimous support of this resolution. We believe this resolution will most certainly help in opening dialog and commerce between the two Samoas, and improve transportation and travel for all," said Mr. Sene via e-mail from the mainland.

"As we prepare to fly to Tonga, Niue and other islands in the Pacific this year, it is important that air commerce between the two Samoas are open and unrestricted for all air carriers serving this route," he said. The free flow of people and goods benefits everyone as they travel the South Pacific."

Inter Island is looking to launched the Tonga and Niue this summer using its new 30-seater Dornier plane that is expected to arrive later this month or early next month depending on when the hangar at the Pago Pago International Airport is completed.

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