Apia-based Talofa Airways Limited files app with US DOT
The Apia-based Talofa Airways Limited, a new start-up airline, has filed an application with the US Department of Transportation for an exemption and foreign carrier permit, pursuant to federal law, to operate in and out of American Samoa and other points beyond the territory.
Additionally, the airline plans to operate both scheduled and chartered foreign air transport of persons, property and mail as authorized under the Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalization of International Air Transportation (MALIAT), or the “Open Skies” agreement, in which several countries are signatories, including the United States and Samoa.
Samoa News reported last month that Talofa Airways was looking to first launch flights within Samoa and then to American Samoa before expanding to other Pacific island countries.
Additionally, the airline’s chief executive officer Toleafoa Jeffrey Hunter had contacted ASG Port Administration last June for office space at Pago Pago International Airport but the sublease had yet to be finalized as of early last month.
Asked for an update on the lease agreement, Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele said Talofa Airways would be subleasing space at the airport that is currently leased to Tausagi Airline.
“Toleafoa from Talofa Airways has met with our airport management to discuss the space and the lease is being routed for approval,” Taimalelagi told Samoa News yesterday.
(Samoa News notes that Tausagi is the locally based start-up airline awaiting federal approval to operate Manu’a flights.)
In its 31-page application filed last Friday with USDOT, the airline says — through its Washington D.C. attorney — that upon receipt of all necessary governmental approvals, Talofa Airways proposes initially to operate up to eight scheduled combination round-trip flights per day between Apia and Pago Pago; up to three scheduled combination round-trip flights per week between Apia and Pago Pago via either Vava'u, Tonga or Nuku'alofa, Tonga; up to three scheduled combination round-trip flights per week between Apia and Pago Pago and beyond, to either Vava'u or Nuku'alofa; up to four scheduled all-cargo round-trip flights per week between Apia and Pago Pago; and, up to two scheduled all-cargo round-trip flights per week between Pago Pago, on the one hand, and Vava'u and Nuku'alofa, on the other hand.
The application states, “Talofa Airways is working with the US Federal Aviation Administration Field Unit in Los Angeles to obtain its operations specification — under federal transportation law 14 C.F.R. part 129— as quickly as possible.”
Talofa Airways will initially utilize a fleet of two Twin Commander 690B aircraft configured with nine passenger seats for the proposed service. Additional aircraft and routes may be added as market conditions warrant, according to the application.
Because it’s a new start-up carrier, Talofa Airways has no operating history, but the application provides a brief description of the business experience of each officer, director and key management personnel.
For example, the application says Toleafoa, who holds a New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji Airline Transport Pilot License and a US Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Pilot License, is the company’s chief executive officer, flight department manager, chief pilot and board chairman.
It also lists Fatu Tielu, formerly of Polynesian Airlines, as chief financial officer and administration manager.
According to the company’s filing, Toleafoa and his wife Maria each own 43% (or 430,000) of the company’s shares, while Fatu Tielu and Rieko Y. Tielu each own 7% (or 70,000) shares of the start up airline.
Talofa Airways says its new service will provide additional travel opportunities to citizens of both the U.S. and Samoa, serve the interests of the community, and to benefit travelers as well as shippers in both countries.
Exhibits included in the application show the airline was already issued on Mar. 16, 2016 an Air Operator Certificate by the Samoa government Ministry for Works, Transport and Infrastructure, and it’s valid until Mar. 27, 2018.
It was also issued in July an Air Service License by the government of Samoa, which has designated the airline to engage in scheduled and non-scheduled air service operations between points in Samoa to points in American Samoa, Niue, Tonga, and Wallis Island. This is valid until July 2017.
According to USDOT, answers are due on or before Apr. 15 for the Talofa Airways application, adding that the airline is seeking expedited processing of the application. (Information on www.regulations.gov).
Talofa Airways is polling a number of airlines for response to their application.
Currently the Samoa government owned Polynesian Airlines is the only carrier providing air service between Samoa and American Samoa, and since the latter part of 2014, Polynesian has also been operating the territory’s domestic flights, under 30-day cabotage waivers issued by USDOT, due to the lack of a US carrier between Tutuila and Manu’a.
Last week Thursday, USDOT granted another 30-day waiver to Polynesian, which is effective Mar. 25 to Apr. 23.