ASIANA AIRLINES TO BEGIN SAIPAN-PUSAN SERVICE

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By Agnes E. Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Sept. 6) - Asiana Airlines will begin a new nonstop service between Saipan and the Korean city of Pusan on September 23, 2007.

The new flights will operate four times a week, every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. They will use the Airbus 320 aircraft, which seats 143 passengers-eight in business class and 135 in economy.

Currently, Asiana Airlines flies 11 times a week between Saipan and the South Korean capital, Seoul. These include four daytime flights, which the carrier introduced in May 2007 amid passenger demand.

The new service is scheduled to depart from Pusan at 9:30 p.m. and arrive on Saipan the following day at 2:50 a.m. Return flights will depart Saipan at 3:50 a.m. and arrive in Pusan at 7:20 a.m.

Located in the southern part of Korea, Pusan is the country's second largest city with a population of almost four million. The city is also tied to many major satellite cities, including Taegu, Ulsan, Masan, Changwon, Kimghae, and Yangsan, all of which are home to almost six million people.

The combined new market will thus total almost 10 million potential travelers.

In anticipation of the Busan launch, the Marianas Visitors Authority has pledged to invest US$150,000 on the promotion of the added service.

Kwang Joong Kim, general manager of Asiana Airlines in Saipan, estimates that the new service will bring in at least 25,000 additional tourists a year to the Northern Mariana Islands.

"This projection is based on solid numbers from the current flight schedule. Our daytime flights are very, very successful right now," said Kim.

Since its launch last May, the daytime service has seen its load factor grow from 91 percent in June, to 93 percent in July and 96 percent in August.

Those flights brought more than 9,100 passengers to the islands in those three months. As a result, arrivals from Korea grew by 30 percent.

"With these successful results, Asiana aims to increase daytime flights from four times a week to seven times a week in the near future," Kim said. "We want to develop more aggressively the tourist market in Saipan and hope that these new flights will only make that market better. We also believe that these new flights will support Kumho Asiana's new development projects at the Laolao Bay Golf Resort."

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