Samoa’s cancellation of open skies agreement could affect travel to American Samoa
The United States Department of Transportation issued a notice on March 11 notifying the US carriers that hold blanket open-skies route authority of the exclusion of Samoa from the Department of Transportation’s list of Open Skies Agreement Currently Being Applied. Brian J. Hedberg, director of USDOT’s Office of International Aviation said that the US carriers have been informed that the certificate will no longer be valid 120 days from the issue date of the notice, i.e., with effect from July 9, 2019.
Samoa withdrew as a party to the Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalization of International Air Transportation (MALIAT) which terminate its open-skies relationship with the US as a multilateral partner. The US was informed of the same by the Samoa through diplomatic channels. Hedberg said that the withdrawal became effective after a year on March 9, 2019.
A week before the official proposal, the Samoa-based Talofa Airways Limited had sought an “emergency exemption” approval from the USDOT regarding the permission of the carrier to operate in and out of American Samoa due to the Samoan government’s plans to withdraw. Talofa Airways was granted the requested emergency exemption, which remains effective for a year starting March 9. The issued exemption sets out numerous conditions such as the limit of payload and the maximum number of passengers whereas the Open Skies agreement deregulated certain areas of the air transport industry for unrestricted flow of trade and liberalization of markets.
In a notice issued by the USDOT, carriers seeking to provide scheduled foreign air transportation to Samoa after the date of termination of the agreement were invited for registering for the suitable exempt authorization. “The USDOT invites US carriers to file applications from exemption under federal law to provide scheduled foreign air transportation to Samoa on the basis of comity and reciprocity,” said Hedberg.
It remains unclear why Samoa chose to withdraw as there were neither any auxiliary accounts with reasoning nor any explanations in the notice issued by the USDOT which had been sent to US carriers, the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the US State Department.