U.S. Department Of Transportation: Hawaiian Airlines New Seating Policy In American Samoa 'Not Discriminatory'

Airline criticized for no longer allocating seats in advance

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 5, 2016) – Hawaiian Airlines’ new policy, which does not pre-assign seats on its Pago Pago flights applies to all passengers and “is not discriminatory”, according to the US Transportation Department’s response to one of the two local businessmen who filed separate complaints last week about the new policy.

The Honolulu based carrier announced early last week about the new policy where passengers can no longer pre-select seats via the airline’s website or kiosk for its Pago Pago flights, instead that seat assignment is now done at the airport.

Hawaiian spokesperson Ann Botticelli told Samoa News last Friday that the decision to assign seats at the airport was the most efficient way to manage weight distribution for the Boeing 767 aircraft following a six-month survey this year that found that aircraft cabin weight was much heavier than projected.

Then yesterday afternoon, Botticelli told Samoa News that Hawaiian operated Monday its first flight to Pago Pago under the new weigh redistribution guidelines and everything went very well.

“We were able to accommodate all parties traveling together. The seating for the return flight also went smoothly. Our sincere thanks to all of our customers for their understanding and cooperation,” she said from Honolulu via email.

Local businessmen Daniel King and Avamua Dave Haleck late last week filed separate complaints with USDOT, claiming that the policy is discriminatory because it only applies to the airline’s Pago Pago flight and it’s only on the Pago Pago flights that passengers are weighed in at the airport.

King yesterday received an official response from USDOT Aviation Consumer Protection Division which points out the complaints from consumers are helpful to the federal agency in determining whether airlines are in compliance with its rules and to track trends or spot areas of concern that warrant further action.

“Based on the information you have provided, it does not appear that your complaint falls under one of the Department's rules,” the email response says and noted that there is no rule that requires airlines to issue advance seat assignments.

Additionally, U.S. and foreign air carriers are prohibited from subjecting a person in air transportation to discrimination only on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, ethnicity, or disability.

“Hawaiian’s new policy of not pre-assigning seats for flights to and from Pago Pago applies to all passengers, which is not discriminatory,” the response said.

Botticelli had told Samoa News that the decision to assign seats at the airport was made because that is the most efficient way to manage weight distribution. “I know it's a hassle, and we apologize for that,” she said. “We could let passengers continue to pre-select seats, but we would still have to move passengers around based on the need to keep one seat per row either empty or assigned to a child.” 

Avamua said yesterday he has not received an official response from Aviation Consumer Protection to his complaint.

Meanwhile, King was informed by USDOT that his complaint will be forwarded to Hawaiian and the federal agency would ask the company to respond directly to King.

Airlines are required to acknowledge receipt of a consumer complaint within 30 days and provide a substantive response to the complainant within 60 days, according to USDOT, which notes that if King has not received a reply within this time frame to let them know.

On the other hand, King was informed that his complaint has been entered into the USDOT computerized industry monitoring system, and it will be counted among the number of complaints filed against this airline in the department’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.

This report allows consumers and air travel companies to compare the complaint records of individual airlines and tour operators. Additionally, the data in the report also serve as a basis for rulemaking, legislation and research.

The Samoa News
Copyright © 2016. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved

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