Nauru Airlines has tentatively secured a foreign air carrier permit from the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT), allowing it to operate scheduled passenger and cargo flights between Nauru and Guam International, and Nauru and Honolulu via intermediary points, and the right to operate charter services between Nauru and any point or points in the United States.
In May 2023, Nauru Airlines requested an exemption under 49 USC §40109, and a foreign air carrier permit under 49 USC §41301, 2 to operate scheduled and charter foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail between Nauru and the U.S. That application was approved in a decision published on 21 September. In 2017, Nauru Airlines applied for, and received, a DOT-issued foreign air carrier permit. However, the airline never exercised those rights and they lapsed.
The approval is for five years and subject to conditions. While the proposed fifth-freedom combination services on the Nauru-Guam (via Tarawa, Majuro, and Pohnpei) and Nauru-Honolulu (via Tarawa, Majuro, and Kiribati) sectors specified in the application were approved, the broader Nauru-U.S. scheduled authority Nauru Airlines requested was rejected.
“The scope of the scheduled operations authorised is limited to fifth-freedom scheduled services with a homeland nexus to Nauru, and third- and fourth-freedom charter services. It does not authorise any seventh-freedom services, whether scheduled or charter,” the decision reads. “”As for the applicant’s reference to possible future service between (1) Majuro and Honolulu, and (2) Tarawa/Kiribati and Honolulu, the applicant must conduct these services either (1) on a fifth-freedom scheduled basis with a traffic nexus to Nauru as specified above, or (2) apply for a charter statement of authorisation to conduct such seventh-freedom passenger and/or cargo charters on an ad hoc basis pursuant to the terms and conditions of 14 CFR Part 212.”
Aero Micronesia, Inc., d.b.a. Asia Pacific Airlines (Guam) (P9, Guam International), opposed the application, calling it deficient and making a series of allegations, including that Nauru Airlines gets subsidies from two independent foreign governments, which it said raised questions about the applicant’s independent financial viability; the lack of a bilateral U.S.-Nauru air services agreement; and suggesting that Nauru Airlines’ lacked the ability to comply with the Fly America Act and U.S. Postal Service statutory requirements relevant to the transport of mail by air.
Nauru Airlines refuted those allegations, adding that it wasn’t seeking to intrude on Asia Pacific’s turf and only operated flights there earlier this year to meet critical supply needs while Asia Pacific Airlines was working through an FAA grounding order. Nauru Airlines says it is primarily interested in providing passenger and cargo services between Nauru and Guam with intermediate stops. It may also want to do the same between Nauru and Honolulu.
“Nauru Airlines contends that the FAA service suspension of Asia Pacific resulted in an emergency at several island nations and Nauru Airlines being asked by some of the affected nations, and by United Airlines, Inc to step in to fill a dire need to transport backlogged cargo and mail with proper authorization from the Department under 14 CFR Part 375,” the DOT’s decision reads. “Nauru Airlines notes that Asia Pacific does not oppose the Department granting Nauru Airlines the previous authority the applicant held.”
“With regard to the objection of Asia Pacific, we find that its concerns do not, when viewed in the context of the totality of the record, provide a persuasive basis to withhold the requested authority. In addition, we note that the Federal Aviation Administration advised us that it knew of no reason why we should act unfavourably on the applicant’s request.”
Via Nauru Airlines (Australia) (ON, Brisbane International), Nauru Airlines operates a fleet of two passenger-configured B737-300s as well as two B737-300(SF)s, one B737-700, and one B737-800(SF) throughout the southwest Pacific. In addition to a series of scheduled passenger and freighter flights, it also has a robust ACMI/charter business. ch-aviation has approached Asia Pacific Airlines and Nauru Airlines for comment on the decision.