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By Edith G. Alejandro

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 16, 2002 – Saipan Tribune)---The Marianas Visitors Authority is concluding preparations for the party that will be held to welcome guests on board China Southern Air’s inaugural flight from Guangzhou, China to Saipan on Saturday.

CNMI officials, together with private representatives from the local tourism sector, are set to fly to China to join the carrier’s maiden flight to the island. The MVA and the Tinian Legislative Delegation are arranging their travel itineraries.

Tinian Dynasty Hotel General Manager Tom Liu said the MVA has teamed up with the Commonwealth Ports Authority to prepare for the inaugural flight, which marks the first China-Saipan direct air transport service in NMI history.

The MVA is still finalizing the list of government officials and tourism industry representatives who will be joining the NMI delegation to China, but initial reports indicate that Lt. Gov. Diego T. Benavente, Pacific Islands Club and MVA official Wendy Herring, as well as officials from Tinian, will join the maiden flight.

According to Liu, the CNMI is yet to receive the official number of delegates who will be boarding the China Southern Air plane.

Delegates from China and CNMI are also expected to hold a discussion with travel agents in Guangzhou prior to the flight.

Last week, China Southern Air secured a license from the Federal Aviation Administration that allows the airline company to proceed with its inaugural flight to the Commonwealth on Saturday.

The airline obtained from the FAA and the U.S.-DOT a charter flight permit for four flights over the Guangzhou-Saipan route.

China Southern Air will be flying to Saipan for just two weeks unless the FAA and the U.S.-DOT extend the airline’s flight permit to its original application, which is for 104 flights to the CNMI.

Liu said China Southern Air and Tinian Dynasty lawyers are still working on obtaining approval for the additional flights.

China Southern Air is scheduled to leave Guangzhou on April 19 and to arrive on Saipan at 2 a.m. April 20.

China Southern Air is planning to serve the Guangzhou-Saipan route twice a week using Boeing 757 aircraft with a seating capacity of 198.

With two flights a week—Tuesday and Friday flights to Saipan—Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino projects an estimated 20,000 additional passengers in a year and at least a $27 million spending contribution to the CNMI’s coffers.

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

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