CNMI Senators Decry ‘Unreliable’ Services By United, Cape Air

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Pair call for federal investigation into flight cancelations, delays

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 10, 2015) – Senators Arnold Palacios and Sixto Igisomar, chairmen of Senate Committees on Federal Relations & Independent Agencies and Public Utilities Transportation & Communications, are asking the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation to "investigate" the "unreliable" flight service provided by United Airlines/Cape Air.

In a letter to Secretary Anthony Foxx, the senators said United Airlines has "abandoned" the Northern Marianas.

"First with the delinking of the Northern Marianas with the Japan route, and now the critical and essential air service connecting Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to Guam.

"Although we truly appreciate the partnership and presence of UA and Cape Air to provide air services to our islands, we can no longer tolerate the deceitful service to our people and visitors as UA and Cape Air callously allow passengers to continue to purchase tickets to board while their ATR 42 incessantly breaks down causing flights to be cancelled due to safety reasons."

The lawmakers said the UA and Cape Air Guam-Northern Marianas route supports 30 percent of the overall tourism industry, the "keystone of the CNMI economy."

The senators believe Foxx can help the CNMI bring back essential air services to the Americans in the commonwealth and deal with safety issues relating to the aging ATR 42 aircraft.

"We seek to implement a solution that will no longer risk the lives of passengers on board Cape Air flights, and one that also meets the needs of those who require critical medical care overseas. We are not suggesting a careless and irresponsible solution to push the only airline servicing our CNMI-Guam route out of the CNMI, but are asking for your intervention to initiate a serious dialogue and resolution to this matter," the senators said.

They added, "Without the essential air service that connects our people to the closest U.S. Territory of Guam for access to health and medical services, business, sports, recreation, tourism and family visitation, our people are trapped and forced to endure the whims of Cape Air’s aging ATR 42 fleet."

Palacios and Igisomar said for years, "people have been subjected to callous and unreliable service from United Airlines and Cape Air. With its frequent postponements and cancellations of flights, people continue to miss important events such as conferences, weddings, graduations, meetings and competitions due to Cape Air’s inability to provide safe and consistent air service."

"We are trapped," the senators added. "United and Cape Air have a fiduciary duty to provide safe and reliable air service to the NMI. We should not receive second or third class air service just because we are located in a remote area. In fact, the NMI received much better service from Continental Air Micronesia so we know what good air service is like. We had reliable air service prior to United Airlines and Cape Air in the NMI. Moreover passengers from the NMI are subjected to much higher travel costs that our mainland counterparts."

They said the distance between Guam and CNMI is only about 129 miles but the airfare is $450 for a round trip on a non-jet airplane.

"This price is exorbitant. We demand and deserve better essential air service from United Airlines and Cape Air and we humbly request a full investigation into the unreliable United Airlines service in the CNMI."

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