Samoa Airways Manu’a flights restricted to “emergency issues”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — ASG’s charter flights to and from the Manu’a islands, operated by the Samoa government owned Samoa Airways is to “address emergency issues” including medical evacuation, while limiting the movement of residents between the islands, to combat the coronavirus.
This is according to ASG’s COVID-19 Task Force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira in response to media inquiries after some Manu’a residents complained of not being able to travel due to alleged restrictions for the territory’s domestic flights.
As previously reported by Samoa News, Samoa Airways has stationed in Pago Pago one aircraft, along with pilots and engineers to operate Manu’a flights, which are considered “charters” by ASG, which collects the airfares from travelers. The goal was to ensure continued air transport within the territory.
Iulogologo’s response late last week on Manu’a flights provided additional information on the scope of Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s request to the Samoa government.
According to the task force chairman, the governor's request to Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaema Sailele Malielegaoi to have one of Samoa Airways’ planes stationed in Pago Pago “is to address emergency issues including medical evacuations from Manu’a.”
Also to address are “government employees to travel to Manu'a to address operating issues, transport medical supplies and medications and other emergency needs,” Iulogologo said.
“Just as we have closed our borders with Hawaii and Samoa to contain the spread of the virus, the same spirit is adopted and applied to travel to Manu’a,” he explained. “With the Governor's commitment to social distancing along with preventing the spread of the virus, travel is discouraged.”
Additionally, the “Governor is also concerned that given our inability to conduct testing we currently don't have the means to know who the carriers might be and if movement is not discouraged and contained our risk his elevated. The Governor's current fundamental objective is to limit movement to lessen the chance of the coronavirus spreading.”
During the government’s COVID-19 cabinet briefing on Mar. 29th, Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua said they were tracking movement of passengers arriving from Honolulu and then heading to Manu’a.
A concern at this point for the government is that there are specific ASG quarantine facilities in Manu’a while home-quarantine in Manu’a may become a difficult issue to monitor.
Under the agreement with Samoa Airways, the cost to park the plane here for charters is $4,000 while the cost of charters to Manu'a is $3,000. (See Samoa News edition Mar. 27th for details.)
Samoa Airways operates the American Samoa’s domestic flights under a cabotage waiver approved by the US Transportation Department.