ASIANA AIRLINES READIES FIRST FLIGHT TO SAIPAN

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The South Korea airline to fly Osaka to Honiara

By Mark Rabago

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Dec. 17, 2008) - The inaugural flight of Asiana Airlines from Osaka to Saipan will arrive at 2:20am this Saturday, December 20, with no less than Governor Benigno R. Fitial gracing the event.

The islands’ chief executive will lead a small ceremony that will include presentation of leis to passengers of the flight.

The Osaka-Saipan flight will provide air service three times a week until March 2009.

The South Korean airline will use a 177-seat Airbus plane to service the route, which the Marianas Visitors Authority anticipates will bring more than 20,000 travelers-based on 531 seats per week-to the CNMI during its first year of operation.

The thrice-weekly Osaka-Saipan flights will bump Asiana Airlines’ service to the CNMI to 21.

The additional service is part of the Asian Airline’s continuing commitment to increase daytime flights to the Commonwealth, which it made soon after its parent company, Kumho Asiana, bought the sprawling Laolao Bay Golf Resort in February 2007.

The Osaka-Saipan flights will also be part of Asiana Airlines’ new code-sharing agreement with All-Nippon Airways, or ANA. Aside from the flight, local ANA services linked to the code-sharing agreement with Asian Airlines are Kansai and Sapporo and Fukuoka and Kagoshima.

The two carriers began code-sharing operation on Dec. 1 with the link up between Kansai Airport and Gimpo Airport in Seoul. It marks the first time in 16 years that Saipan once again became part of the network.

Under the deal, frequent flyer members of either airline will be able to accumulate and redeem mileage on the code-sharing flights.

Last month, the CNMI witnessed a 32-percent increase in tourist arrivals from Japan, as 17,539 visited the islands in November 2008 compared to 13,282 during the same period in 2007.

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