JAPAN AIRLINES BACK IN CNMI WITH CHARTER FLIGHTS

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By Liberty Dones

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 6) - A year after it left the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Japan Airlines will fly back to Saipan today, albeit on a charter basis, bringing in some 300 tourists from Narita, Japan.

According to the Marianas Visitors Authority and Commonwealth Ports Authority, Japan Airlines will have one charter flight from Narita to Saipan today using a B744 aircraft.

It will return to Narita tomorrow.

"This is very exciting news for us," said Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio in a statement.

"We have certainly missed seeing the Japan Airlines planes at Saipan International Airport and we look forward to welcoming the charter flight to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Japan Airlines has been a part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for many years and we are glad to see them bring a charter flight back to our islands," Tenorio added.

For his part, Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Clyde Norita said, "We are looking forward to having these charter flights arrive. It's great to have more visitors coming to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands from Japan."

Japan Airlines' pullout from Saipan in October 2005 resulted in the loss of nearly 100,000 tourist arrivals in fiscal year 2006.

Marianas Visitors Authority data showed that from October 2005 to September 2006, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands lost 95,971 visitors from Japan.

From 376,263 in fiscal year 2005, Japan arrivals went down to 280,292 in fiscal year 2006.

Japan Airlines, which had serviced the Saipan route for 28 years, used to bring in some 155,000 passengers a year.

The Japan market arrival decline was offset a bit by other markets, resulting in the overall loss of 85,745 tourists for fiscal year 2006.

Statistics showed that a total of 443,812 tourists arrived in the Northern Marianas during the period, a 16 percent drop from fiscal year 2005, which saw 529,557 tourists.

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