American Samoa, a US territory in the South Pacific, is reportedly preparing legal action against the US Department of Transportation to give Samoan flag carrier Samoa Airways (OL, Apia Faleolo) cabotage rights between Hawaii and Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa.

The US territory comprises seven South Pacific islands and atolls; whereas Samoa is an independent member of the Commonwealth that gained its independence from New Zealand in 1962.

The Samoa Observer reports that US cabotage laws currently prevent Samoa Airways from carrying US-based passengers on the route between Pago Pago and Hawaii.

American Samoa Governor, Lolo Matalasi Moliga, had instructed the territory's attorney-general to prepare a lawsuit over the matter in the US Supreme Court, the newspaper reports.

The governor, in his 2020 State of the Territory address earlier this year, said he had written to US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao requesting an exemption that would allow Samoa Airways to pick up passengers in American Samoa destined for Hawaii and the mainland, Samoa News reported. The governor said he was prepared to file a lawsuit against the DOT if the agency denied his request.

The DOT previously granted a waiver to allow Samoa Airways and Talofa Airways (Apia Faleolo), a private Samoan airline, to operate flights between the Tutuila and Manu’a islands in American Samoa. “Talofa Airlines has also [previously] been granted a waiver to service the same market. The Governor is still working to push for a waiver for the Pago-Hawaii route, said spokesperson Iulogologo Joseph Pereira.

Larry Sanitoa, a representative of the American Samoa Fono - the territorial legislature – said travel restrictions were the biggest restrictions hampering tourism and economic development in American Samoa. “If we’re ever going to get tourism working or perhaps more trade, we have to have these foreign carriers,” he said.