Feds: Hawaiian's Pago Pago Route OK

April 4, 2007
The summer load factors may indeed mean that some travelers may not be able to obtain reservations; however, EAS is not designed to provide all the service a community wants, but just a safety-net.

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) - Hawaiian Airlines' current flight frequency on its Honolulu-to-Pago Pago route meets federal requirements while the carrier's fares don't suppress passenger traffic, the U.S. Department of Transportation said.

American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono last month asked for a federal Essential Air Service to look into the capacity during the peak summer months. Tulafono said he was concerned about the lack of capacity in June.

Hawaiian Airlines offers two roundtrip flights a week and on May 30 will add a third flight for the summer months.

An EAS order in 1984 found that Pago Pago should receive a total of 1,118 seats per week during the summer months, as well as December to mid-January. The airline offers 778 seats a week the rest of the year.

Hawaiian uses Boeing 767 aircraft with 252 to 264 seats.

'Even if all the Pago Pago flights were configured with fewer seats, the service still far exceeds the capacity called for in the EAS determination,' said Andrew Steinberg, the DOT's assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs.

(Review Steinberg's findings.)

The DOT examined passenger, seat and load factor for the Pago Pago-Honolulu segment from January 2000 to December 2006.

The department said the average load factor was 68 percent -- 75.9 percent in 2006 alone.

'These are very high load factors indeed ... ' the report said.

The DOT compared Pago Pago-Honolulu flights to the Guam-Honolulu route and the Anchorage-Adak route in Alaska.

The average Guam-Honolulu one-way fare is $800 per passenger compared to $484 for Pago Pago-Honolulu, which is half the distance.

Tulafono had long argued that Hawaiian fares were much higher for the Pago Pago market compared to the airline's other markets with similar distance and travel time.

DOT reviewed passenger fare data from 2002-2006, including a time span when Aloha Airlines competed against Hawaiian, when the average fare was $391 per passenger. Aloha pulled out of the Pago Pago market in 2005.

Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner declined to comment.

Last month, Wagner said the carrier was confident it is providing ample capacity in the Pago Pago market.

American Samoa is a U.S. territory about 2,300 miles south of Hawaii.

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