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Open letter to Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines logo. (PRNewsFoto)

The following is an “open letter” to Hawaiian Airlines about how I think about their philosophy concerning American Samoa, namely the fares. 

Hawaiian Airlines and CEO Mark Dunkerley,

I realize you want to make money and that American Samoa is in the middle of nowhere as far as airlines route go. I get that. However, I struggle to believe that you could not find a way to make the route work without raping every single person that cross the threshold of an aircraft owned by Hawaiian Airlines. That is what does not make sense to me.

Cebu Pacific Air has been able to make the flight from Manila to Sydney that is 3353.2 Nautical Miles for just over $150 for a base fare. In comparison, Pago Pago International Airport is only 2253.3 Nautical Miles and six times the cost. I understand the higher demand for traffic but how can they do it for a fifth of what you offer on a much shorter trip?


It is not just Cebu Pacific able to do this, either. Airlines like Air Asia, Hainan Airlines, and Norwegian Airlines are doing too. In fact, Norwegian flew me from Thailand to New York via Sweden for under $500. I could have made the trip and got a nice hotel and still be less than your five hour flight to American Samoa.

I guess what I am saying is something needs to be done. I want to see Hawaiian Airlines make money. That is the point of business. However, either you are charging more than is needed to do that (because you have no competitors in this route) or you are making some really silly decisions that are costing the airlines millions a year. Which is it?

Another factor that you seem to overlook is that this is probably the most expensive fare for a flight in America but it is traveling to one of the poorest communities in the country as well. Many American Samoans make little more than your fare in a whole month. Traveling to Hawaii or onwards for medical treatment (or other issues) is impossible. There has been cases of people dying because they did not have the finances to travel to Hawaii for treatment.


The bottom line is while you love routes without competitors (you left the Manila route because you didn’t want to compete), and you are making a killing on the American Samoa trip as well. It is time you start to think of other ways to make money without raping the passengers to the point that people are dying in American Samoa because of your fares. Just saying.

Former resident of American Samoa

35 replies
  1. Masunu Leala
    Masunu Leala says:

    True. $1,480 for a ‘One Way’ from American Samoa to LAX? Y’all killing us softly HAL. I loved it when it used to be $500USD for just ‘One Way’; bring this back.

    Reply
  2. Faailoilo Veavea
    Faailoilo Veavea says:

    Not only the expensive fares, but the service provided to the American Samoan people is terrible. I had traveled from Hawaii to the Mainland via Hawaiian Airlines & realize the difference.

    Reply
  3. June
    June says:

    Everyone has this same complaint. A lot of families either advance their paycheck, try to find someone to get them a cheaper flight or they take the other way around where they fly to Samoa connecting to Fiji and then flying to Hawaii or to Samoa and then on to LA. Is it possible the flights will go for less soon?

    Reply
  4. Faleula Sappa
    Faleula Sappa says:

    Thank you Peter Vandever for your letter to Hawaiian Airlines. Pray someone will hear the plea of the residents of American Samoa regarding the outrageous Hawaiian Air fares to Pago Pago and back. God bless you Peter Vandever.

    Reply
  5. Teta
    Teta says:

    To be honest I’ve never paid a round trip fare going to or coming from Am. Samoa because it is SO expensive. Even if they could just drop it down to atleast $500 that will be greatly appreciated

    Reply
  6. Fiatagata uaita
    Fiatagata uaita says:

    I really support you, every single word you spoke of is true. People of my country is low on wealth,and the airfares of Hawaiian airlines is killing us,so I hope the owner thinks it over for the love of my people

    Reply
  7. LT
    LT says:

    200% agreed with the open letter, I’m Negotiating with my sources to get an airline compete with these no love Hawaiian airline. Once we have our final piece lock in, Our gold is to 1-2 flight a week that Hawaiian air fare will not compete with us, then maybe take over the rout from Hawaiian air. Pray for it American Samoa.

    Reply
    • ASP
      ASP says:

      Praying everything will go through for the sake of our people. HA fares are ridiculously terrible. It’s killing us softly.

      Reply
  8. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I agree! Hawaiian Air is a monopoly. Maybe other airlines should take it upon themselves to establish flight routes to and from Pago Pago. And maybe the government should regulate such monopolies, as would be best in an efficient economy.

    Reply
    • Nicole
      Nicole says:

      That’s the case with Cebu Pacific Air actually. For the longest time, Philippine Air used to be a monopoly in the Philippines (only the higher classes could afford to travel) until Cebu Pacific came along and targeted the lower income consumers and eventually forced Philippine Air to lower their prices and create promos.

      Reply
  9. Merita Smith
    Merita Smith says:

    Thank you, Peter Vandever!! Finally, someone who cared enough to write about this to bring awareness in a matter that has long been overdue!! Yes, this matter because American Samoa is my home. The cost is too much to travel there which I cannot afford. I am making plans to go there next year, this is the only way for me to go, save money this long so I am able to visit. Why are we paying such an outrages fare to visit my home? It’s been five months since this letter. Has anybody from the Alpha contacted

    Reply
  10. Merita Smith
    Merita Smith says:

    Sorry, I post my comment before I delete my last sentence on my first comment. Has the Hawaiian Airline company responded? If not, where do we go from here?

    Reply
  11. David
    David says:

    I want to share some thoughts on this matter. Hawaiian Airlines is not completely at fault for the fare prices. ASG through its entity, Port of Administration, plays a big part in this also. Fares are not solely based off of traveling distance. It has a whole lot to do about the costs of operations. A large portion of the costs are based on taxes, landing fees, fuel and other operational expenses. Majority of the costs incurred by the Airline are from the local government. American Samoa International Airport charges carriers operating there $3.50 per 1k LBS. Now the usual aircraft we have flying to and from would be a 767?? and that weighs about 412k alone and its Maximum weight on take off on these planes are about 450k to 500k( I think)So it would cost them $1500 to $2000 just to land.Fuel is the tricky part,the cost of fuel per mile for these planes are around $20 to $25 per mile. 2500 plus miles to and from puts them at $50k in the hole one way. So a flight alone without pilots and crews are $52k. Now we add personnel(ground and Air crews) for the sake of this e.g. lets say it costs HAL 500 employee hours and average of $10/hr for ground crew (Employees-HAL). An additional $5k. Now we sit at 57k, Air crew: the Pilot and his officers would easily eat up $2000 and the attendants would easily eat up $2000.(61K) Refuel at 20k gallons at $3.22 per gallon adds another $60k(at least $120k). Now give or take another $10k for additional government fees it would be safe to say 125k to 130k but it can reach 150k and most times would. Now if they got 210 people paying for their tickets @$800 one way to hawaii they would make about $160 -$170k. A whopping profit of (sarcastic)$30-$50k… now compared to the retail world with mark ups as crazy as 300 percent… this is probably only a 20-40 percent mark up. Keep in mind HAL is a business not a charity. So as much as I dislike the costs of flying from American Samoa and to American Samoa on HAL we have to be fair with our judgements. Something for our local government to think about…oh and the government regulates the prices on fuel in American Samoa. So yeah a fair share of the blame falls on us too… and some of it we have no control over it. However I do admire Vandevers efforts in addressing the issue but I would like to share that HAL is not the villain in this movie. Faafetai Tele
    Talani Solomona

    Reply
    • Fa'i
      Fa'i says:

      There is a lot that goes behind the scenes. I agree, HAL is also paying for landing fees that is charged by our own ASG government, which is a ridiculous amount because they get to charge HAL a higher amount that HAL pays at even the best airport, LAX, when trying to land in PPG. ASG government also makes HAL pay for TSA and Agricultural employees services during flight nights. So honestly they could just leave this route when things go down, because they don’t make a totally big profit in the end. The reason they left Manila was not because they didn’t want competition. It was politics. More were flying with HAL than PAL, and one reason why HAL pulled out, because HAL’s own employees were being threatened.

      Reply
    • Elekosi
      Elekosi says:

      This is hogwash. The numbers by Mr. Talani does not add up at all. Let’s just say we give him the benefit of the doubt and take $3.50 to be the cost per lb rather than per 1klb, a one way trip, according to his numbers will cost HAL $60,442. Compare this to 210 passengers paying $800 each for one-way tickets. From the fares, HAL collects $168,000.00; a profit of about $107,558.00 per one-way trip. If all the passengers that fly on HAL pay one-way tickets in a week with two trips a week (4 one-way tickets), HAL collects in profit $430,232.00 per week. They would make more than a million a month, that is, a profit of $1,720,928.00 per month. They would make millions per year: a profit of about $22,372,064.00 per year. On the other hand, if all the passengers that fly on HAL pay round-trips of $1400. From the fares, HAL collects $294,000.00 per night (two trips), a profit of about $173,116.00. There are four trips a week and, thus, HAL will collect in profit $346,232.00 a week. This is $1,384,928.00 a month. This is a profit of $18,004,064.00 a year. But of course we know that not all are one-way ticket holders and not all are round trip ticket holders. Let’s just say that a better representation of the passengers lies somewhere in the middle. HAL still makes between 18 to 22 million dollars a year off of their route to American Samoa. Now, in using Mr. Talanis numbers, if HAL had a change of heart and decided that they will just collect $50,000.00 in profit per night off of one-way ticket holders, they still would make $200,000 per weak, $800,000.00 per month, $10,400,000 per year in profits. Which would mean, the customer is charged only $526.00 for a one-way ticket and $921.00 for a round trip ticket. With this, HAL still makes between 7.5 to 10.4 million dollars per year. Given the monopoly status they have going to American Samoa, this would be reasonable when compared to their one-way prices to San Francisco of about $340 and round trip cost of $595. Where they only make a profit of about $4,100.00 to $11,000 per trip. Compare this to $107,558.00 to $173,116.00 profit per trip. Wow, more than 100 times becomes the difference. So, even with the government fees you speak of, HAL still comes out as greedy and unreasonable.

      Reply
  12. Alice Aofia
    Alice Aofia says:

    Thank you for speaking out. They also Lost ALL of my husbands luggage and really do anything to find and or replace it. I guess they figured all he needed was a lava lava.

    Reply
  13. Jess
    Jess says:

    Annoying…please stop begging other people and do it your d*** self…like that stupid airlines pay by poundage…how humiliating and waste of time..where it @ now?!? Get together and compete against these idiots..point blank!!

    Reply
  14. Leapaga Tiapula
    Leapaga Tiapula says:

    I left the rat race in 1992 and waited in a line of 11 people headed for Pago, while there were 3 other lines completely empty. When I tried to move into one of the empty lines I was told that the other 3 lines were for passengers headed for Honolulu only. My blood pressure began to boil as I replied that I was on my way to Honolulu, but got the ol’, “Sorry speech…” They have improved since then, but rarely do I bother venturing off island unless absolutely necessary.

    Reply
  15. Lanz
    Lanz says:

    HAL is fully responsible for the high airfares for the Pago Pago flight to and from Hawaii…Please Mark Lower the prices…you guys are killing our people with this ridiculous high fares

    Reply
  16. rere
    rere says:

    i so agree.. man i havent been home to visit with my family for 6 yrs due to airfare costing me an 2 grands…nd kids under 3 is half the price or same as an adult fair…

    Reply
  17. Agnes Morrow
    Agnes Morrow says:

    High Airway robbery to my opinion. While visiting last year to see my family from Phoenix Arizona. The treatment of the flight via Honolulu to American Samoa was so much different. We were treated like second class citizen… with the amount of money they charge for the fare…American Samoa deserves better.

    Reply
    • Cora
      Cora says:

      True, I noticed that too when I took my family (kids) for the first time home for vacay, not only I see how differently they treated our citizens who were on flight with us, but the aircraft itself (interior) looks very poor and dirty too compare to their other aircraft used in the Mainlands. It felt weird traveling back home, I did not even bother to ask for assistance , the flight attendants ugh! No comment! Didn’t want to mess with their falsies!! Lol

      Reply
  18. Moe Taufi
    Moe Taufi says:

    The problem is not the just the airline but its political, I believe our local representative Governor and Congressperson is getting money from Hawaiian Air for not demanding them to lower there cost or they will add competition to this route. The people need to put pressure on our political representative big time, they need to protest at the airport and the homes of these political leaders.

    Reply
  19. Jeri Scratch
    Jeri Scratch says:

    The general consensus here is that Hawaiian Air will continue to charge what they want as there are no real competitors in the LAX or HNL routes to Samoa. Fares are increasing yearly yet the service rendered is rapidly declining. I have not been home for roughly 9-10 years and the last time I flew home, my ticket was over $2,000 round trip. (Chicago, Hawai’i, Samoa) The seats were small, cramped, customer service was almost non-existent and I think the only saving grace were the flight attendants. It’s a shame that Hawaiian Air has a monopoly like this and can’t or won’t try and work with the Samoan route consumersnto alleviate the hardship that buying a ticket with them often occurs.

    Reply
  20. Poly Teine
    Poly Teine says:

    “David” I believe you have it right on the dot and then some….for years we have been complaining about HA, and they still have not given us anything solid that would give us any hope that fares will be lowered anytime soon. Did it ever occur to anyone that ASG plays a BIG part in this dilemma? Aloha Airline went to Am Samoa…Aloha Air did NOT literally last a year. So however much noise we make and wherever we make it at..if ASG does not fess up on their part in this we will continue to pay these outrageous fares. My other question is, Why would Am Samoa collect THAT much, yet our airport is paid by Fed. Grants? If anyone should collect is Uncle Sam and then give us our portion to pay the Airport Workers, Maintanence and Uncle Sam can give us the direct answer to our request yay or nay on a $500 fare…On a business perspective, wouldn’t you rather fill up the seats then to fly an empty plane?

    Reply
  21. Rosie O’Brien
    Rosie O’Brien says:

    It is for this very reason that the only time I ever step foot in a Hawaiian airline plane is to fly to American Samoa and back to Hawaii. Otherwise any connecting flights I have when I arrive in Hawaii are all other airlines because I refuse to give them another dime.

    I did write Hawaiian Airline a long time ago and they did respond with an email that the reason they charge so much is because Samoa charges them a hefty fee just to land there thus them adjusting their prices.

    Our government needs to own up to it and it would be nice to see how much our government is charging versus what other governments are charging to land planes in their state/territory.

    Reply
    • lastkodiak
      lastkodiak says:

      While I do not like some of the stuff the government does (ok, all of it lol) in American Samoa but I question they have any authority over the airport. That is all under FAA and regulated by Congress.

      Reply
  22. Just sayin
    Just sayin says:

    Hopefully soon the fairs will be lowered. What i would like to adc as frustrating is that we all recognize the importance of a passport in these times yet the challenges presented in American Samoa make it nearly impossible. The passport office at USPS in Fagatogo never answers the phone then when he does i’m told the next open appt is over a month away. What? For something so important there’s only one buy doing it?

    Reply
  23. Just sayin
    Just sayin says:

    If you book ahead of time of time you can get a $700 one way fair. Pago flight is the only flight allowed two free check-ins. But still, i hope they lower the flights so my family can visit.

    Reply

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