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Direct flights Samoa-Los Angeles
American Samoa governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga confirmed to local broadcaster Talanei that Samoa Airways will launch direct services to the U.S. mainland – specifically Los Angeles. Currently, neither of the Samoas have a direct connection to the U.S. mainland. The American Samoan government is looking into legal means to overcome current U.S. cabotage rules that forbid foreign carriers from entering and serving Pago Pago – Los Angeles route.
What is the cabotage rule?
Cabotage is the transport of goods or passengers between two places in the same country by a transport operator from another country. For cabotage purposes “United States” includes all U.S. territories. Therefore, a foreign-registered carrier is not permitted to carry passengers solely within American Samoa or between American Samoa and Honolulu. These would be considered cabotage violations.
How will they get around the cabotage rule?
American Samoa has a specific route to get around the cabotage law. They are planning a minor detour. The route would start in Pago-Pago, then they plan on going to Faleolo international airport and therefore avoiding the cabotage law. Faleolo international airport is located west of Apia, the capital of Samoa. American Samoa and Samoa (Independent State of Samoa) are just 120 km apart which will make the detour barely noticeable. American Samoa has an internal exception from the cabotage law for flights between Pago-Pago to Ofu and Fitiuta.
Samoa Airways does not operate any aircrafts capable of reaching the US mainland. The carrier was due to take delivery of a B737-9 earlier this year but the type was grounded globally. Samoa Airways had to resort to wet-leasing a B737-800 from Malaysia.