Temporary Flight Cancelations To Cost CNMI $31 Million

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Interruption in airline services from Russia, Korea to hurt

By Jayson Camacho

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, August 12, 2014) – Although the cancellation of airline services for the Russian and Korean markets in upcoming months is only temporary, it is projected to have a negative impact on the CNMI worth about $31 million, according to Marianas Visitors Authority executive director Perry Tenorio.

Tenorio said yesterday that, aside from cruise ships, airlines are the CNMI’s only link to its tourism markets, so any disruption in flight services is bound to have a significant effect.

"Ship arrivals to the CNMI account for less than 2 percent. Given this, the cancellation of any air service to the CNMI should be a concern," he said.

The key airline provider for the Russian market is AviaCharters DV, while Asiana Airlines brings in most of the islands’ Korean tourists.

With AviaCharters cancelling flights from Sept. 1 to Oct. 27 to make way for a new flight program, Saipan Tribune learned that key hotels that cater to Russian tourists have already started experiencing either cancellations or change of flights.

Island hotel that cater to the Russian market include Pacific Islands Club, Saipan World Resort, Mariana Resort and Spa, and Kanoa Resort, according to MVA marketing specialist Tatiana Babauta in an earlier interview.

AviaCharters is cancelling its flights due to the implementation of a new program with partner Orenburgh Airlines, which means changing the plane being used to ferry Russian tourists to Saipan.

Asiana Airlines, meanwhile, is suspended for seven days of flights between Incheon and Saipan from Oct. 14 to 20 for violating safety rules in April when pilots ignored signs of engine trouble and continued flying to Saipan.

According to Asiana’s latest report yesterday, Aug 12, the suspension will inconvenience many travelers planning to head to Saipan, an unexpected cost for the CNMI’s Korean market.

Tenorio said that a "similar degree" of impact will also show from the recent spate of flight cancellations by Cape Air/United Airlines.

"The CNMI receives approximately 1.6 percent annually of our total visitor arrivals via Guam. Until the link between Guam and CNMI stabilizes, we fear that our travel partners will temporarily cease selling the CNMI travel product," he said.

MVA said the projected air seats for fiscal year 2014 is about 534,001 and for fiscal year 2015 it is projected at 609,119. Tenorio said this is a projected increase of 14.1 percent.

Michael Merner, founder and chairman for AVIAREPS Marketing Garden, earlier said the challenges for tourism is the lack of hotel rooms and air services to the CNMI.

Tenorio said there will be a new airline service by Jeju Air from Seoul from October 2014 to September 2015, using a Boeing 737 with 189 seat capacity, for total seats of 68,985.

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