Hawaiian Airlines is denying the American Samoa governor's complaint that the carrier favors its charter services with an NFL football team over its customers in the U.S. territory.
Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who is trying to get a new carrier to serve the Pacific territory, blames Hawaiian's charter services agreement with the Oakland Raiders of California for the rescheduling of several flights between Pago Pago and Honolulu in recent weeks.
Airline spokesman Keoni Wagner insists that's not the cause for Hawaiian having to reschedule five flights in November.
He said aircraft for the regularly scheduled flights were not available because of "an unanticipated delay in modifying the interior of a 767 that's being added to our fleet."
Wagner, in an e-mail responding to questions, said, "This has affected flights on all of our routes, not just Pago Pago."
Wagner said the airline does its best to contact all affected customers of the changes and offers travel credit coupons worth $200 or $300 as "a gesture of our appreciation for their patience."
"We truly regret the inconvenience this is causing some of our customers and apologize for not being able to prevent it altogether," Wagner said.
Tulafono said on his weekend radio program that besides Hawaiian's high fares on the Pago Pago route, the latest problem is the inconvenience to travelers due to the rescheduling of Hawaiian flights.
Currently, American Samoa's only U.S. link is the four weekly flights between Pago Pago and Honolulu.
Hawaiian announced in September that the Oakland Raiders would use Hawaiian Airlines charter flights for their road games. It's the seventh year in a row that Hawaiian charters are carrying players, coaches, trainers and team officials.
This season, Hawaiian is flying the Raiders to games in Baltimore, Denver, Seattle, Kansas City, San Diego, Cincinnati and New York. Hawaiian also has the first option to fly the Raiders to any road playoff games.
Tulafono said he believed that every time the airline has to fly the football players, flights to Pago Pago are changed.
He claimed Hawaiian continues to disregard American Samoan travelers' well being.
While the governor awaits the outcome of Hawaiian's petition before the U.S. Department of Transportation to continue serving the territory, Tulafono said he continues to talk with other airlines who may be interested in the American Samoa market.
Among the airlines is United Airlines, which the governor said is currently looking into whether it could make a stopover in Pago Pago en route to other destinations in the Pacific.
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