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American Samoa to keep flier miles of government travelers

By Fili Sagapolutele

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:49 a.m. HST, May 23, 2013

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa » American Samoa plans to take away frequent flier miles from government workers who travel on behalf of the U.S. territory and use the loyalty points to help medical patients and students travel off the islands when necessary.

Hawaiian Airlines agreed to the plan that takes effect on June 1, American Samoa Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said. The airline is the only carrier connecting the unincorporated U.S. territory midway between Hawaii and New Zealand with the rest of the United States.

Moliga announced the policy this week in a memo to the territorial government's various agencies. He acknowledged some people might see the move as unfair but called it "morally wrong" for employees to get extra benefits from the privilege of traveling for the territory as a government employee.

"We have a moral responsibility to help out those of our people who, not by any fault of theirs, find themselves in situations where outside assistance is needed," Moliga said. "The added benefit provided by the frequent flier mileage award should be shared with those of our community who are truly impoverished and destitute."

American Samoa, made up of two small islands in the south Pacific slightly larger in area than Washington, D.C., budgeted nearly $6 million for government travel in fiscal 2013.

Tim Winship, editor and publisher of Frequent Flier.com, a website dedicated to the use of airline miles, said corporations and governments have sometimes considered keeping miles from employees. But he hasn't heard of any taking the idea as far as American Samoa has with its new policy.

Winship said the arrangement presents practical and moral hurdles. Airlines typically tie frequent flier miles to individual travelers, while frequent travel takes employees away from home without really compensating them for time away from family and the normal frustrations of air travel, he said.

"None of that is in any way compensated through one's normal salary, and frequent flier miles have historically been seen as a way of compensating business travelers for that," Winship said.

He said it's an uncomfortable stretch for Moliga to call government travel a privilege.

"At the very least, you can expect there to be a lot of disgruntled passengers — a lot of disgruntled (American Samoa) employees," Winship said. "Calling travel on business a privilege, you're going to get some pretty frequent pushback from travelers on that characterization."

Moliga said Hawaiian Airlines agreed to create a corporate account for the territory to deposit all miles for flights paid for by the territory's government.

Hawaiian Airlines declined comment, referring questions to the American Samoa government. Shares of parent company Hawaiian Holdings Inc. were unchanged Wednesday at $5.50 per share.

The new policy comes four years after a territorial lawmaker tried to introduce legislation for a similar arrangement to provide funding for a referral program to send patients off the islands from American Samoa's only hospital, which is publicly run.

The program has gone without funding since 2008. Since then, patients who need medical care outside American Samoa have had to pay their own airfare and hospital care through private insurance or Medicaid.


Associated Press writer Oskar Garcia in Honolulu contributed to this report.

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serious wrote:
Makes sense to me. The one who pays should get it. I am sure the government workers are collecting TDY pay in addition.
on May 23,2013 | 06:50AM
Ewaduffer wrote:
Best way to cure that type of rip off is to not claim FF miles at all.
on May 23,2013 | 07:09AM
Taimalie12 wrote:
This is a unique situation. Good decision by the Governor in taking an unpopular step to help the unfortunate in American Samoa.
on May 23,2013 | 08:16AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Maybe the State can learn from this.
on May 23,2013 | 10:16AM
Wonderful_World wrote:
The State should use the miles to send back all those unhappy "campers" that came here & are so disgruntled about being homeless!
on May 23,2013 | 04:35PM
false wrote:
Hawaii government should also do that and create a bank of milage for state travel for official business. State workers are permitted to keep the milage for themselves this again on the taxpayers back. Come Gov. let's look into this. This is BS.
on May 23,2013 | 10:26AM
bigislandkurt wrote:
Will Hawaii follow suit? haaaa. No way.
on May 23,2013 | 12:09PM
mmcmssawnuc wrote:
Obviously anyone that thinks this is a good idea has not been on an airplane for the past few years. Government travel is always the cheapest seats with the lowest priority just above the standby passengers. Perdium seldom covers the cost of food, and other necessities required for living away from home. That small perk of keeping the FF miles is just about the only good deal the traveler gets for dealing with the pain of air travel in our wonderful society.
on May 23,2013 | 12:28PM
Wonderful_World wrote:
Should Government travel be first class? On the job application where it asked if you're willing to travel, you could check "no"
on May 23,2013 | 01:21PM
GeoDiva wrote:
Have you checked the per diem rates lately? Currently the per diem rate for Honolulu is $126.00/day for food & incidentals only. I think any one of us can eat on that amount per day.
on May 23,2013 | 01:36PM
BRock wrote:
Most of the time you also have to pay for your lodging, you twit.
on May 23,2013 | 02:25PM
Ronin006 wrote:
The maximum US Department of Defense per diem rate for Honolulu is $303 of which $177 is for lodging and the rest for food and incidentals. The twit apparently is referring to the food and incidental portion only. I do not know if these rates apply to US territories and state governments, but I believe they are the same or very close.
on May 24,2013 | 01:59AM
HD36 wrote:
I wonder when the bond market is going to collapse: forced austerity.
on May 23,2013 | 07:48PM
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