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Dear Editor,

While the trip home on the test flight was at times stressful, I have to admit that we have to draw a line somewhere to ensure the safety of our island community, so for that very reason, we should be willing to make the sacrifices of doing all that is required to return home safely without endangering our island community.

At the same time, I would like to provide my experience so that folks that are planning on traveling home will have some idea of what to expect and what kind of expenses for which they will have to be prepared.

Here is my experience on the Test Flight of August 30, 2021:

First and foremost, our heartfelt gratitude to all those folks that made sure our flight was safe from HNL to PPG —thank you so much!

On August 18, 2021, I received a phone call in the evening in Seattle, WA, from a representative from DOH Safe Travels that we (husband & I) are to take a COVID test, so that we may be included on the Aug. 30 special test flight.

In Seattle WA, it is very difficult to get a PCR test with results within the same day or even one day, and the only one that we could take is located at South Center for $186.00 each, making the total for both of us, $372.00 — they were same day results test. We had no choice, but to pay the cost, if we wanted to be compliant and be able to make that flight.

Upon receiving our negative test result, I immediately emailed copies to the and I received confirmation of receipt from a Ms. Salilo Foifua.

The next deadline we had to meet, to make the flight, was that we were required to be physically in Honolulu by Aug. 25, in order to take another COVID , and because we do not have family in Honolulu, we had to stay at a hotel for 5 nights from Aug. 25 to Aug. 30. Hotel for 5 nights totaled $1,100.00 and food for five (5) days was $400.00; transport by taxi totaled $300.00.

Total expenditure in Seattle for test = $372.00 (two people)

Total expenditure in Honolulu = $1,800.00 (For two people- sharing a room)

Airfares SEA/ HNL= $760.00 (for two people/ $380 each)

Airfares HNL/ PPG = $1600.00 (for two people/ $800 each)

Total: $4,532.00 for 2 people.

While at first my TalofaPass account experienced a lot of glitches, I am thankful that I was able to communicate directly with Ms. Hong Pang (head of TalofaPass Data) and Mrs. Sandra King Young (head of AS Medicaid Office) and their staff, and as a result I was able to resolve the glitches in my particular account and we were able to continue to use our TalofaPass account to meet the requirements in order to board the test flight on August 30, 2021.

To better understand the online TalofaPass requirements, here are the steps that we needed to do online:

1)         Go to the TalofaPass website and register for your account, set up your username, and password, this needs to be done 20 days from your proposed departure date to Pago Pago;

2)         Submit copies of your passport, ID, vaccination card, and any other documents that verifies that you’re a bona fide resident of American Samoa;

3)         10 days out from your departure date, you must have your first COVID test from wherever you are residing staying, and then submit the result online in your TalofaPass account and wait for your approval;

4)         5 days out from your departure to Pago Pago, you must physically be in Honolulu and take your 2nd COVID test at the Visitors Concierge Office at Ala Moana Shopping Mall ground floor; and,

5)         48 hours from departure to Pago Pago, you must do a 3rd COVID test at the same place at Ala Moana Shopping Mall (THE TESTS IN HONOLULU ARE FREE).

The flight was one of the smoothest I have ridden on HAL and the landing was especially greatly appreciated — not like a previous flight where we landed with a “bang”.

Upon deplaning, we went straight onto the buses. It was exhilarating to see family members standing along the road side cheering on their returning family members. It was especially heart-warming for us to see our grandchildren waiting and waving at us — ‘welcome home!!” Having been away for more than 4 months, this sight brought tears to our eyes and made us feel that all this was worth the effort and expense.

Upon arriving at the hotel, registering for our rooms, the staff were both accommodating and very kind and gracious. The daily meals provided were exceptional and very tasty — our compliments to the Chef.

Thank you to the coordination of all the ASG departments that are taking care of our flight/ quarantine at Tradewinds, you all deserve commendations for a job well done and for your professionalism and compassion.

We pray that all the passengers on this test flight return negative COVID test results and that we may all safely join our families and loved ones that are awaiting us in our homes.

Male Fa’aaloalo Lava


(Editor’s Note: Samoa News usually does not publish LTEs without name of the author. However, in this case, we wanted those who decide to come home or are leaving and planning on returning soon, to be aware what is involved in getting home — COVID free & safe — over the coming months.  ra)