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

  • Masunu Leala
    April 3, 2017 - 7:01 pm

    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.

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  • Ena
    April 3, 2017 - 8:56 pm

    Oh my gosh! So true! Thank you for this letter. Hopefully Hawaiian airline “Will” do something about it.

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  • Faailoilo Veavea
    April 3, 2017 - 9:22 pm

    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.

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  • June
    April 3, 2017 - 10:01 pm

    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?

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  • Faleula Sappa
    April 3, 2017 - 11:22 pm

    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.

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  • Teta
    April 3, 2017 - 11:48 pm

    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

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  • Fiatagata uaita
    April 4, 2017 - 12:53 am

    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

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  • LT
    April 4, 2017 - 2:56 am

    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.

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    • ASP
      August 16, 2017 - 2:50 am

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

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  • Nicole
    April 4, 2017 - 3:17 am

    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.

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    • Nicole
      April 4, 2017 - 3:22 am

      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.

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  • Merita Smith
    April 4, 2017 - 3:45 am

    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

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  • Merita Smith
    April 4, 2017 - 4:01 am

    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?

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  • David
    April 4, 2017 - 4:01 am

    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

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    • Fa'i
      April 4, 2017 - 3:31 pm

      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.

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  • Alice Aofia
    April 4, 2017 - 4:32 am

    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.

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  • Alice Aofia
    April 4, 2017 - 4:33 am

    *Didnt do

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  • Alice Aofia
    April 4, 2017 - 4:33 am

    *Didnt

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  • Jess
    April 4, 2017 - 5:14 am

    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!!

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  • Leapaga Tiapula
    April 4, 2017 - 6:43 am

    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.

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  • Lanz
    April 4, 2017 - 7:58 am

    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

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  • rere
    April 4, 2017 - 10:41 am

    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…

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  • Agnes Morrow
    April 4, 2017 - 12:09 pm

    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.

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    • Cora
      April 4, 2017 - 4:36 pm

      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

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  • Moe Taufi
    April 4, 2017 - 12:22 pm

    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.

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  • Jeri Scratch
    April 4, 2017 - 12:44 pm

    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.

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  • Cora
    April 4, 2017 - 4:19 pm

    Suicidal tbh!!

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  • Antonette del.mundo
    April 4, 2017 - 4:21 pm

    Very expensive airfare but customer service is WORST…

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  • steve
    April 4, 2017 - 5:02 pm

    Cabotage law.

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  • Poly Teine
    April 4, 2017 - 6:08 pm

    “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?

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