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American Samoa government travelers to lose flier miles

By Fili Sagapolutele

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:13 p.m. HST, May 22, 2013

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa >> Hawaiian Airlines agreed to create a corporate account for the American Samoa government so that the U.S. territory can take away frequent flier miles from workers who travel on behalf of the government 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 Honolulu-based 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 FrequentFlier.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.

Winship 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, owned by Hawaiian Holdings Inc., did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. Shares of Hawaiian Holdings were unchanged on 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. 

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iwanaknow wrote:
So.............those who have can help those who have not? Island Style?
on May 22,2013 | 02:42PM
lowtone123 wrote:
I think they have it right. I think that helping those in your community less fortunate trumps gaining a perk because you have to travel as part of your job.
on May 22,2013 | 03:02PM
AhiPoke wrote:
Sounds like something Hawaii should consider or the state and federal governments should be assessing income taxes to these benefits.
on May 22,2013 | 03:05PM
inlanikai wrote:
Queue Senator Chuck E. (Cheese) Schumer, the senior senator from NY and unofficial federal advocate for airline passenger (read: those who pay for the ticket) rights. Any bets he uses this precedent to push the airlines to set up a government frequent flyer account for all tickets purchased by the Fed for government employee travel. I can hear him now: " Why shouldn't Uncle Sam have the benefit of millions of frequent flyer miles earned by federal employees every year that can be used to save 100s of millions of dollars that can be used to fund ......". I understand the why this was done but this is going to set one heck of a precedent.
on May 22,2013 | 03:15PM
kahuku01 wrote:
Hawaiian Airlines agrees with the Samoan Government and the plan is effective June 1, 2013. Hawaiian acknowledges that it is the right thing to do after the Governor requested the change for crediting the government with the frequent flier miles points.
on May 23,2013 | 06:15PM
what wrote:
The Samoan Government is so hard up for money that they asked a private company, Hawaiian Airlines, to change the rules of their own loyalty program to benefit the Samoan government. The rules of nearly all airlines loyalty programs state that only the passenger, his friend and family may use mileage earned by the flying passenger. The Samoan Government to went Hawaiian Airlines, said we don't like your rules, please change it for our benefit. All for an amount of money amounting to about 4 percent of the cost of the ticket. The excuse of "charitable" use of the benefit is suspect - if you want to do something charitable, you don't ask private companies to change their rules.
on May 22,2013 | 05:11PM
kahuku01 wrote:
If you thought this out logically, the Samoan Government should have the right to the frequent fliers points because the government pays for the airline tickets for government officials to fly on government related business. It is a good gesture by the American Samoa Governor to have the frequent flier miles used and shared with those of the community who are truly impoverished and destitute. Just imagine, the amount of frequent fliers miles that were used by the government official's family, relative or friends, since Hawaiian Airlines implemented this program and not having to pay with pocket money and flying free by way of government funding for their tickets. This should apply to all government officials that fly with airlines that have frequent fliers miles when the government funds their ticket for government official business. It seems that the rich get richer with benefits unrelated to their pocket expense.
on May 23,2013 | 06:04PM
mcc wrote:
How about all the miles earned on the rail junkets and other City and State traveling? The person traveling should not receive the miles, the City or State should.
on May 22,2013 | 05:25PM
kahuku01 wrote:
on May 23,2013 | 06:06PM
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