CNMI PORTS AUTHORITY MULLS OVER AIRLINE INCENTIVES

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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 14, 1999 - Saipan Tribune)---The Commonwealth Ports Authority is studying the possibility of providing incentives to all airlines in a move to stimulate traffic and revive the ailing tourism economy, said Carlos H. Salas, Executive Director.

"We are making an analysis right now to quantify the incentives that we must give," he said.

The ports authority is looking at reducing the landing fee and passenger facility charge for existing airlines in an effort to encourage them to increase their seating capacities and begin service to new destinations.

While emphasizing that the incentives are only temporary, Salas said he wants to make sure that CPA and the community will benefit from it -- not only the airlines. For example, in gauging passenger growth, Salas said they have to agree on what period would be used as a basis for comparison.

Northwest Airlines executives met with Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio recently seeking a 50 percent reduction in the passenger facility charge and landing fee. In exchange, Northwest will upgrade its DC10 service to the Northern Marianas by flying the 371-seater Boeing 747 aircraft to boost passenger arrivals. Salas said that such incentives, if implemented, will be given across-the-board and not for the benefit of only one airline.

A draft of the incentives to be given to air carriers is being reviewed by CPA management, and the board of directors will make a decision next week in connection with its implementation.

J.M. Guererro, head of the Aviation Task Force, has been lobbying for the incentives as Continental Micronesia continues to drop its direct flights to Saipan from various destinations in Asia due to a decline in visitor arrivals to the Northern Marianas.

The ports authority has been holding regular consultation with various airlines to discuss ways to improve service. It deferred the implementation of an increase in the landing fee and passenger facility charge to March 2000 after the airlines strongly opposed the plan.

As a cost-cutting measure, the CPA cut down the working hours of its employees from 80 to 72 hours per two-week pay period starting last April 1.

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