Contributed by: Tia Belau
President Peter Christian of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in his first participation in the 8-member Small Island States (SIS) meeting on Wednesday, September 7 after the unanimous approval of the FSM admission into the sub grouping of the smallest member countries of PIF (Pacific Islands Forum), disclosed that Micronesia region ‘s dominant airline, United Airlines, last Friday threatened to stop serving Kosrae which will leave the isolated smallest state of the FSM without air service.
Kosrae Governor Lyndon Jackson confirmed to TIA BELAU that he informed President Christian about the threat after he received message from his state over the weekend that UA manager in the state told the airport officials that the airline will pull out of the state if the incident last Friday happens again. Nauru Airline reportedly had arrived in Kosrae last Friday a few minutes before the UA flight but UA demanded to be refueled first and eventually their plane was refueled first and left 55 minutes late but before Air Nauru. The airline manager then allegedly made the threat.
President Christian raised the issue as an example of problems with transportation in the region particularly among the small states that impede their development and show their economic vulnerability which also caused by monopolistic and large corporations that should be addressed by SIS and PIF.
Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu and outgoing chairman of SIS in his comments during the Taiwan’s sponsored reception in the previous evening, had called UA the worst airline he had ever taken for not serving food at the flight from Guam and for its expensive airfare after he took its flight to Pohnpei the day before.
Nauru Airline early this year commenced flight from Fiji through Majuro to Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Chuuk and back a week for a ticket price half of that of UA, one of the largest airlines in the world. For example, the round trip flight between Kosrae and Pohnpei costs over $500 for UA but is about half of that, about $250 for Nauru Airline.
UA fare in the Pacific is said to be the highest in the world as shown by some of its fares to and from Palau. For example, the UA fare between Palau and Manila for less than a 3-hour flight is between $670 and $900 round trip, more than ticket price of less than $700 for the flight of China Airline between Palau and Taiwan which is longer than one hour in flight time. The flight between Palau and Pohnpei costs about $1,200 which is more or about the same fares between Palau and USA or Europe and back. [/restrict]