KOREA BUDGET AIRLINE SEEKS SAIPAN ROUTE

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T’way Airlnes queries CNMI government

By Gemma Q. Casas SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 25, 2011) – A budget airline based in Seoul is exploring the possibility of providing low-cost flights between the South Korean capital and Saipan.

Commonwealth Ports Authority (CPA) Executive Director Edward Deleon Guerrero told the Variety T’way Airlines had written his office to inquire about the feasibility of providing a low-cost air service to Saipan which is approximately over 1,900 miles away from Seoul.

Deleon Guerrero said he will bring the matter to the CPA board of directors, which is scheduled to meet on Jan. 27 on Rota, before a formal response is provided to T’way.

According to news accounts, T’way was formerly known as Hansung Airlines when it was launched in 2004.

The airline was financed through the joint partnership of the city government of Cheongju and the University of Chungcheong and provided domestic flights between Jeju and Gimpo.

But barely four months into the aviation industry, its flights were suspended due to budget constraint.

Last year, it was re-launched with new financiers as T’way and acquired a Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Low-cost airlines do not offer complimentary food and other perks compared to high-end airlines but their airfare is way cheaper.

Deleon Guerrero said T’way’s possible entry to the route would complement the existing international airlines providing direct and charter flight services to Saipan.

T’way’s target market — South Korea — is the CNMI’s primary source of tourists apart from Japan.

Based on statistics from the Marianas Visitors Authority, a total of 19,109 Korean tourists visited the islands from Oct. to Nov. 2010 — up by 63 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

The positive growth was attributed to Asiana Airlines’ decision to ditch Airbus 321 and use the bigger Boeing 767 aircraft in serving morning flights from Incheon.

Deleon Guerrero said T’way’s interest to serve the Saipan route indicates that the Korean market could still be further developed.

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