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Sichuan Airlines offers new access to People’s Republic

By Moneth Deposa SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Dec. 10, 2010) – A new airline from mainland China could fly to the islands starting next year after the Commonwealth Ports Authority (CPA) confirmed yesterday that officials and representatives of Sichuan Airlines Company Ltd met with the agency to inquire about requirements and certifications.

CPA board chair Jose Lifoifoi and executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero separately confirmed yesterday Sichuan Airlines' commitment to fly to Saipan.

Sichuan Airlines is headquartered on the grounds of Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, Sichuan, in the People's Republic of China. It is a regional airline operating mainly domestic services. The airline was established in September 1986 and started flying in July 1988 between Chengdu and Wanzhou.

Deleon Guerrero said Sichuan had already secured a permit from the U.S. Department of Transportation and Communications and is now awaiting certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We had a meeting with them a couple of days ago and they are inquiring what they need to do in order for us to give them certificates to fly to Saipan. They're still in the working situation now, but we're hoping they put things together so they could start as soon as possible," Deleon Guerrero told Saipan Tribune.

Lifoifoi described Sichuan Airlines' move as a positive development for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) tourism industry this new fiscal year.

Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) managing director Perry Tenorio yesterday described Sichuan Airlines' plan as a great opportunity for CNMI tourism, which is suffering a drastic decline in arrivals since the pullout of Japan Airlines in 2005.

Tenorio said that airline representatives have also inquired with MVA in previous months about the tourism industry on the islands.

China-considered the CNMI's secondary market-saw a 17-percent decrease in tourist arrivals in October 2010, with 3,207 visitors compared to the same month in 2009 with 3,846 arrivals. The reduction was a result of the suspension of charter flights from Guangzhou last month.

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