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By Shan Seman and Edith Alejandro

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 8) – China Southern Air, which was earlier reported as fielding direct flights to Tinian later this month, has applied for additional flights to Saipan.

This was learned from Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Carlos Salas, who said that the application has been submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration requesting flight schedules to Saipan from any point in China. He, however, is still waiting for confirmation.

Gov. Juan N. Babauta will be among the batch of passengers aboard the first direct flight to Saipan on April 23. Public information officer Peter Callaghan said Tuesday that Babauta will depart for Beijing on April 16 to discuss with the China National Tourism Administration the CNMI's application for Approved Destination Status.

A news release dated March 4, 2004 said that an agreement has been finalized between China Southern Air and the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino that will enable the airline to fly two weekly charter flights from Shanghai to Saipan beginning April 23, 2004.

In the release, Michael Kwan, chairman of the board for the Tinian Dynasty and Casino, said that, once the West Tinian International Airport is approved to handle outbound international passengers, the flights would go directly to Tinian.

Late last month, Salas said that China Southern Air and the Tinian Dynasty have yet to present the CPA with the necessary license allowing the airline to bring passengers to the Tinian airport.

"We have not received an update from the China Southern Air. We are still waiting for the [U.S. Department of Transportation] approval, which they should provide us before they would be allowed to use the Tinian airport," he said.

April 8, 2004

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