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By Aldwin R. Fajardo

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 24, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---The Commonwealth Ports Authority intends to participate in a scheduled discussion on open skies between the United States and Japan governments in another effort to improve Saipan's access to Japan.

CPA Executive Director Carlos H. Salas has sought the assistance of Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) in determining how the agency can best participate in the consultation meetings slated for next month in Tokyo, Japan.

"We are quite interested and would very much appreciate any details or recommendations that you could offer in order for CPA to more effectively participate in the meeting," Mr. Salas told ACI-NA Senior Vice President Diane Peterson in a letter.

He explained that CPA plans to meet with delegations from the U.S. and Japanese governments as well as airline executives who are involved in the open skies agreement discussions and attend scheduled briefings.

Mr. Salas stressed that the ports authority is hoping to learn more about the process and to be able to make it known that Saipan is working double time to improve its access to Japan.

CPA is also anticipating that a three-member delegation from the Northern Marianas hotel industry will participate in the November 15 open skies agreement talks in Japan.

The Airports Council International earlier urged CPA to join the U.S. delegation in the meeting with the Japanese government on air service rights, to be able to express its concerns about the CNMI's air transport situation.

This has been the practice of many U.S. airports administrations throughout the mainland and other American territories in order to ensure that the federal government is aware of their interests.

CPA has brought the islands' air transport woes to the attention of the ACI-NA, as it asked the Council's help in CNMI efforts to rebuild the islands' struggling tourism industry, which currently thirsts for additional nonstop international flights.

CPA also wants the U.S. government and Japanese aviation officials to include Saipan on the list of destinations to be served from the new second, short runway at Narita International Airport in Japan, which serves Tokyo.

Japan's estimate of the departing-flight distance for Narita airport's runway B use is 1,500 miles, which includes Guam, Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai.

CPA, along with other U.S. airports administrations, is a participant in the ICA-NA's International Air Service Program.

ACI-NA has asked CPA and the CNMI government to start approaching carriers about serving the Northern Marianas, in view of the new capacity being created at Narita.

However, the Commonwealth's efforts to encourage more foreign carriers to serve the Northern Marianas depends largely on the government's ability to make a strong presentation to airline companies that Saipan could be a profitable route.

"If Saipan can make a case that it could be a profitable route, then it is currently easier for the four incumbent carriers - Northwest, United, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines - to begin service between any point in Japan and any point in the U.S., including Guam and Saipan, as they can operate without any frequency limits," said Ms. Peterson.

In a previous letter to Ports Authority Executive Director Carlos H. Salas, Ms. Peterson noted that Saipan needs to show that there is enough traffic and potential passengers to make Saipan a productive route for the carriers.

She added that carriers decide on the routes to serve based on the number and kind of passengers, cargo, how well a route fits into an airline company's system, availability of aircraft, crew slots and how a route stacks up against others in terms of profitability.

At the same time, Ms. Peterson said the CNMI government may also consider some third country carriers as potential prospects that have fifth freedom rights to serve Saipan, such as Brunei, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan.

She said, however, that even if these countries have the rights from the U.S., they may not have the necessary fifth freedom rights from Japan.

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

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