13 November 2015

United States Territories Criticize United Airlines

"The unilateral applicability of U.S. cabotage laws to the U.S. territories resulting in high prices on air service is a function of the colonial status which limits competition to only U.S. airlines - even as the territories are outside of the U.S. customs zone. If "free market"  principles were to apply, then a number of Pacific-based regional airlines would create significant competition in the market and drive down the predator, monopolistic prices permitted because of market manipulation." - a Pacific economist  

The attorneys general from Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands say the airlines’ service “has declined beyond what we ever could have imagined.”

The CEO of United Airlines asked customers for feedback and got an earful from officials representing two U.S. Pacific island territories, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The flights between Honolulu and Guam are notoriously expensive — it would cost over $2,200 to fly roundtrip during the week of Christmas — and frequent mechanical problems on flights within the Mariana Islands provide passengers with an endless supply of horror stories.
Even a flight between Guam and Saipan — that lasts just 45 minutes, or the equivalent of flying from Honolulu to Kona — generally costs at least $200 roundtrip and sometimes tops $400. Frequent flight cancellations have forced some passengers to be stuck on one island for a week or longer, hurting businesses, tourists and residents.
Despite the hefty prices, the service is subpar, according to a letter sent to United from the attorneys general from Guam and the CNMI, the Marianas Variety reported.
After merging with Continental, United inherited a monopoly over the Honolulu-Guam route, and got rid of free inflight meals even though the flight lasts eight hours and is considered an international flight for the purposes of U.S. immigration.
United also charges passengers $70 to check a second bag, which the attorneys general called “unfairly restrictive.”
The officials noted that the flight from Honolulu to Guam lasts about the same time as flying from Honolulu to Tokyo-Narita but that the latter is much cheaper and provides passengers with free inflight meals and two checked bags.
“The disparity in services is especially striking given that the fare for the Guam-Honolulu route is almost twice as much as the (Narita-Honolulu) route,” they wrote.
The officials noted that Continental bought a new fleet of planes before the merger but that United replaced them with older aircrafts that often break down.
“Continental was deeply rooted in this region and invested in its people. This all changed after the merger,” the officials wrote. “We understood there would be changes, but the changes have been very disappointing. Service has declined beyond what we ever could have imagined by this merger. Customer satisfaction is at an all-time low, but there are changes that could — and should — be made to improve customer satisfaction on this route.”

French nuclear waste in Ma'ohi Nui (French Polynesia), Compensation for radiation victims strongly supported

Pacific churches have called on France to clean up nuclear waste in Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) less than two months ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate change in Paris.

While welcoming French promises of assistance to climate change-affected islands in the region, Pacific churches also want compensation for former workers in test sites on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls.

Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, said the promises of help for communities affected by climate change were a promising start to new relationships between France and the region.

But he warned that more must be done to ensure justice for Pacific people.

“Nobody can deny that climate change is a pressing global issue which must be addressed by all,” Rev Pihaatae said.

“At the same time we must not overlook the tremendous cost to the environment and human life caused by nuclear testing in the Pacific by France and the United States.

“This damage will be irreversible for several generations.

“Since the late 1960s the PCC, its partners and member churches have called for a nuclear-free Pacific and for compensation and justice for the victims of testing.”

Rev Pihaatae said generations of innocent people in Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) and atolls in the Northern Marianas and the Federated States of Micronesia had been left maimed for life by the nuclear tests.

He said radiation from the tests was passed from parents to children through conception and some villagers had been forced to leave their ancestral homes forever.

“As we approach COP21, Pacific churches call on the French government to do what is morally correct and compensate the victims of testing on Moruroa and Fangataufa,” Rev Pihaatae said.
“Those who have become ill, lost sight, limbs, homes and livelihood must be treated with justice.

“We also call on the United States to treat the people of the Northern Pacific territories with justice and compensate them for their losses.

“It is not enough to address the issue of climate change without also dealing with the nuclear problem which plagues the islands even after testing has stopped.”

Last week, French Ambassador to Fiji, Michael Djokovic, said he had seen and experienced why the Pacific was vulnerable to climate change.

Djokovic said, he saw the effects of climate change on Tuvalu and noted the anxiety in locals and how they were confronted with the rise in sea level.

“Even if the EU cannot agree on all the posts, we will try our best in our European and French account as chair of COP21 to reach an ambitious legally binding agreement, and universal all together from the tiniest country to the biggest one,” he said.