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Governor tightens protocols for aircraft landing in American Samoa

Pago Pago International Airport sign
… to ensure there are no “unfortunate disputes” in the future

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has not suspended flights into American Samoa for refueling and for temporary rest, “instead we have tightened our protocols”, says ASG Coronavirus Task Force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereria.

Under the protocols approved by the governor, notification of flights must occur at least two weeks in advance before the actual flight date, Iulogologo said on Wednesday.

This notification must simultaneously be sent to the chairman of the Task Force, the Attorney General, the director of the Department of Health, and the director of the Department of Port/Airport Administration, 

DoH and Port Administration “will proceed with the appropriate vetting of the request [and] the request must provide all information relative to whether passengers will be on board, flight origination and termination, disclose whether overnight is necessary and all other protocols issued by the Department of Health,” Iulogologo further explained.

Additionally, DoH and Port Administration will provide their recommendation to the Attorney General and the Chairman of the Task Force who will in turn secure the Governor's decision. 

“The Attorney General will communicate the Governor's decision along with any other attached provisions or caveats to the decision,” said Iulogologo.

“For GAS-N-GO flight requests,” they “will follow the same protocols and procedures,” he added.

The protocols approved by the governor are to “ensure that we preempt the replication of unfortunate disputes in the future,” said Iulogologo responding to media inquiries following what other ASG officials say was a dispute last week which precipitated pilots of an aircraft ferried from Australia to Hawaii ending up sleeping on the plane at the airport.

According the ASG officials, approval was given last month by the task force for the aircraft to land and overnight in Pago Pago.

However, the governor — who later learned that the plane was to overnight — denied entry, while the aircraft was already enroute, prompting an appeal to the governor, who then allowed the landing, but the pilots were not allowed to leave the aircraft and stayed onboard overnight.

KHJ News reported Wednesday that a portable bathroom was provided for the pilots’ use on the tarmac and food was also delivered to the pilots.