‘Flight cancellations affecting business between Saipan, Guam

With stretches of cancelled flights the last several weeks, several community leaders spoke to Saipan Tribune about how the current state of Cape Air/United Airlines has affected them and the islands in the region.

“It has disrupted the planning of many of the businessman who fly up here [from Guam],” said David J. Sablan, chairman of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

Robert H. Jones, president and chief executive officer of Triple J Enterprises, said his experience with Cape Air has taught him to fly one day before he needs to get to another island.

“It is very poor air service between two or three very important and active islands that need reliable service,” Jones said.

Sablan said that United has an obligation to the islands, after its merger with Continental, to provide the services that were previously enjoyed under the old airlines.

“The service between what it was, and what it is now with United is terrible. It absolutely is terrible,” he said.

He that while the Cape Air flights were quite comfortable during its first months of flights, air-conditioning is sometimes not turned on during early afternoon flights.

“It’s sweltering hot in the aircraft while you’re waiting for it to taxi and take off, and they don’t do anything about it,” he said.

Jones echoed the same sentiment, faulting flights for being “always hot and often late.”

David M. Sablan, corporate consultant for Century Insurance Co., who has been a leader in the island’s economic development for decades, called for government intervention to ensure that the people of the Marianas are served properly by the airlines.

“We need the service between here and Guam for the people. If we want to continue to do business, that’s the only way,” he said.

He said that if Cape Air cannot provide the services that make it comfortable to do business between Guam and Saipan, then a new airline that can provide good service must be found.

This week the Office of the Attorney General released a statement saying that they are soliciting consumer protection complaints regarding airline companies in the Commonwealth.

While the office does not have the authority to process or investigate complaints, they will be forwarding them to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

According to the USDOT website, complaints will be reviewed to determine the extent to which carriers are in compliance with federal aviation consumer protection regulations.

The department also publishes a monthly Air Consumer Travel Report where complaint statistics are made available. In the report from June, United led complaints against U.S. airlines with 158 complaints recorded in April. US Airways came in second with 128.

Most of United’s complaints were filed under flight problems, with 48 complaints filed.

The deadline to file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office is on Aug. 20.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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