12 months ago, Hawaiian Airlines suspended its flights from Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye International (HNL) to American Samoa’s Pago Pago-Tafuna International (PPG) at the request of the American Samoan government. This route was the only regularly scheduled air link between the US territory and Hawaii. Subsequently, many people hadn’t been able to see their loved ones since. However, in January, Hawaiian Airlines began an operation in coordination with the American Samoa governor to repatriate nearly 2,000 stranded residents.
A long year
Tuli Fruean heads Hawaiian Airlines’ local operations as general manager of its PPG station. At the beginning of the year, he was appointed to a unique multi-agency task force to coordinate the repatriations.
Fruean was born and raised on the main island of the territory, Tutuila. This factor means that the project hits home for the project leader. He and the airline is working alongside the State of Hawaii, American Samoa’s Department of Health, Homeland Security, and other officials to ensure that all the trips were operated under CDC guidance.
“We [Hawaiian Airlines] were the obvious choice for the job, and the government was quick to contact us right away. We were very fortunate to be part of the conversation from the very beginning,” Fruean shared in a statement.
“We welcomed about 160 guests on our first repatriation flight, and because of the rigorous testing and quarantine requirements put in place by the task force, all of them were able to be screened, cleared and released into the public. On our second flight, which arrived last week, we transported 188 guests who are currently completing their post-arrival quarantine requirements.”
A coordinated effort
Notably, every single service requires up to a month of preparation. Passengers also have to plan well. For instance, they must go through extensive pre- and post-travel testing and quarantine procedures to be cleared for entry. Regardless, these processes wouldn’t deter these travelers from seeing their loved ones after so long. It would have undoubtedly been a tough year following the unprecedented impact of the pandemic.
Fruean anticipates that the airline will conduct two repatriation flights each month over several months to keep up with the growing list of residents seeking assistance to fly. Altogether, the success of the operation comes down to the joint effort throughout the company and the wider society. Fruean mentions that everyone from the governor of Samoa to Hawaiian Airlines’ baggage handlers play their part.
The challenge continues
Overall, Hawaiian Airlines is motivated to get members of the American Samoa community home after being separated for a year. The carrier acknowledges that people coming off the planes could be one of the carrier’s family members. So, it’s a massively unifying and exciting experience for the whole outfit.
Hawaiian Airlines remains a vital vessel to connect several communities across the Pacific Ocean. So, these operations show the carrier’s determination to meet its duties. As the light at the end of the tunnel approaches following such a difficult year in the industry, passengers and airlines alike would be hoping that strict travel bans are a thing of the past and that there are more balanced measures going forward.
What are your thoughts about Hawaiian Airlines’ efforts to repatriate American Samoan families amid the pandemic? Have you flown with the carrier during these challenging times in the industry? Let us know what you think of the operator and its services in the comment section.