Views from Palau: Airline monopoly
Koror—It would be nice to take a vacation elsewhere in this part of the world, you know, to see some of the other islands of the Pacific. You’d think it would be fairly easy, given that my family and I already live in Palau. Don’t get me wrong, Palau is great but it’s nice to get away and see something different, sample some different cultures and hey, even take a busman’s holiday and go and do some filming on another island. I’m sure many of you feel the same. It seems crazy that we are already in the Pacific and yet have seen so little of the other flavors here.
So I decided to look into flying and sampling Yap, Guam, Pohnpei and Kosrae, to see what they
have. The aim was to offer my filming services to resorts, dive shops and other tourist
attractions. Produce quality promotional material for them to advertise themselves with and at
the same time have a mini vacation.
I then hit the snag. Due to the limited number of flights and airlines available, there seems to
be a bit of-- how can I put it-- price fixing, price inflation, over- inflation. And yes, the flight
prices are very…very...high. So high in fact that for the same price as a ticket from Palau to
Guam, I could fly from the continental USA to Europe and return—twice!
Palau is 811 miles from Guam. Chicago to Berlin for example is 4400 miles— two times that is 8,800 miles. Typical fares for that roundtrip flight to Berlin are under $500. Is jet fuel more expensive here? Certainly not ten times more expensive!
The short answer is competition or lack of it in Micronesia.
"Try searching for a roundtrip flight from Koror to Guam and it’s $935; search for a flight from Guam to Koror return for the same days and it’s $200 cheaper…. It’s very hard to be able to get out of Palau and go anywhere in Micronesia without it costing you a vital part of your anatomy"
But there’s more:
Try searching for a roundtrip flight from Koror to Guam and it’s $935 return, search for a flight from Guam to Koror return for the same days and it’s $200 cheaper.
So why is that? Somebody is sticking the knife in and laughing as they twist it.
The end result it that it’s very hard to be able to get out of Palau and go anywhere in Micronesia without it costing you a vital part of your anatomy. Moreover it certainly limits the numbers of people who can afford to take holidays in Micronesian island nations that could very well benefit from an increase in tourism and the millions of dollars that tourism brings into the economy.
Think of the jobs it could create, the increased diversity of businesses, the advances a healthy economy creates in infrastructure, schools, and the general quality of living a population enjoys. Then ask the question that if these high airfares are holding back visitors and the economies are being restrained by the airlines overcharging, wouldn’t it do these Island States a huge benefit to court other airlines that could provide competition in this monopolized market?
Unless I’m missing some rule that says only one airline is allowed to fly these routes, why are the governments of the small island states being bent over a barrel by overpriced air service?
We are the consumers and we do have power, in more ways than one. Message to governors and politicians: You can help your respective economies by seeking out alternatives to
this monopoly. Demand answers to the question of overcharging, think of how happy vacations
make you and well, how popular you would be if more people could take them and knew you
Richard Brooks owns Lightning Strike Production, which covers everything from underwater to aerials. See his work at www.lightningstrikeproductions.co.uk