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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 16, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---The Commonwealth Ports Authority will extend the reduced landing fee incentive it has granted to Northwest Airlines to all other airlines servicing the CNMI to prevent any accusation of discrimination, according to Carlos H. Sales, CPA Executive Director.

CPA earlier approved Northwest's request to extend its airline incentive program until October 2000 on condition that it would upgrade its aircraft from DC-10s to B-747s. The incentive, which took effect on May 1, 1999, was supposed to end on February 29, 2000.

Northwest has announced that it will use B-747s by October this year between Guam and Tokyo and Saipan and Tokyo. The move will result in an increase in seat capacity in both markets by 32 percent, or an additional 630 seats per week for both Guam and Saipan

The aircraft upgrade is the result of a decision made by the Guam and CNMI governments and airport authorities to reduce the aircraft landing fees at both stations, said Martin Gross, General Manager for Philippines and Micronesia.

By March 2000, the incentive will be based on the new airport rate required to make sure that the ports authority will be able to pay its $20 million construction debt.

CPA has granted a 50 percent cut in departure and arrival fees to all signatory airlines servicing the CNMI to entice them to increase traffic and revive the ailing tourism economy.

The incentive will be given to carriers that can provide an additional 15 percent increase in the total number of passengers that they bring into the CNMI.

Despite the downturn in tourism economy, CPA earlier was forced to increase its rate because it was under pressure to generate much-needed revenues to meet debt service coverage.

Salas said the CPA board will still conduct a study on the financial effect of extending the incentive by seven more months.

Northwest Airlines, the world's fourth largest airline, flies daily between Guam and Saipan to Tokyo, Japan, with connecting flights to nine U.S. gateways and over 250 North American destinations.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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