You probably know foreign airlines cannot sell tickets between two U.S. airports. This is why Air Canada cannot sell tickets between New York and Los Angeles, with a stop in Toronto.
The idea is to protect U.S. airlines. Only carriers registered in the United States can sell flights to passengers flying between two U.S airports.
But on rare occasions, the U.S. Department of Transportation allows exemptions. Right now, one foreign airline has special permission to fly between two U.S. points.
What is it?
It's Polynesian Airlines, which is temporarily flying between two airports in American Samoa - Pago Pago and Fitiuta Airport, Manu’a Islands.
Polynesian is an airline in Samoa. Under normal circumstances, it can sell tickets to travelers flying between Samoa and American Samoa. But it cannot sell tickets on flights between two cities in American Samoa.
But the usual airline flying between Pago Pago and to Fitiuta Airport in Manu’a Islands - Inter Island Airways - is apparently out of commission. So Polynesia has stepped in.
From the DOT filing:
Polynesian states that Inter Island Airways, Inc. (IIA), a U.S. carrier, previously provided this service; however, IIA’s aircraft remains out of service and it is unclear when the aircraft will return to service. Polynesian asserts that there is currently no service between Pago Pago and the Manu’a Islands, creating severe hardships for residents. In this regard, Polynesian included in its application a letter from the Governor of American Samoa specifically supporting the request of Polynesian for an exemption until such time that a U.S. carrier can resume operations.
As some of you have pointed out, other foreign airlines can fly between two U.S. points. Qantas, for example, flies between New York and Los Angeles. But this is different. Qantas can fly passengers from Australia to New York, with a stop in Los Angeles. But it cannot transport passengers who are only flying between New York and L.A.
Below is the full DOT notice on Polynesian. You'll see the airline has been flying in American Samoa for awhile. [If you're interested in learning more about U.S. cabotage laws, you may consider reading this DOT summary of the rules.]
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