Charter flights between Guangzhou, China and Saipan will begin next Tuesday, May 10, providing direct service from the major Asian city to the Northern Mariana Islands.
The twice weekly flights will arrive on Saipan on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 2:40am. The flights will use Airbus 330 airliners, carrying 236 passengers, and are chartered by Tinian Dynasty Travel and operated by Sichuan Airlines.
In addition, Sichuan Airlines will also operate twice weekly service to Saipan with an Airbus-330 aircraft from Shanghai Pudong Airport beginning Monday, May 9.
These flights are jointly chartered by Tinian Dynasty Travel and Century Tours.
The Shanghai flights will arrive on Mondays and Fridays at 5am and the first four flights are already completely sold out. These flights are in addition to the current twice weekly flights operated from that city by China Eastern Airlines.
Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero quoted Sichuan officials as saying it is the company’s plan to become one of the Commonwealth’s signatory airlines in coming months.
“Right now, we consider the company as a charter airline and they intend to become a signatory airline in the Commonwealth,” said Deleon Guerrero, adding that Sichuan wants to have a daily regular flight from China soon.
POI Aviation flight operations manager Rommel Monserrat confirmed the airline schedule from May 9 to October 2011. The four weekly flights are slated for Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Monserrat said every Monday and Friday, the charter flight is scheduled to arrive at 5am at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport and scheduled to depart 6:10am on the same day. Passengers for these flights are from Beijing.
Every Tuesday and Saturday, the flight is expected to arrive at 2:40am with a scheduled departure at 4:20am on the same day. Passengers are from Guangzhou.
POI Aviation confirmed that an A330-200 aircraft will be used for these charter flights, with a capacity of 245 seats: 36 for business class and 209 for economy.
Sichuan Airlines Co. Ltd is headquartered on the grounds of Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, Sichuan in China. It is a regional airline operating mainly scheduled domestic services. The airline was established in September 1986 and operation started in July 1988 between Chengdu and Guangzhou.
In March this year, Fly Guam started regular flights to Saipan, with the intention to bring in more flights within the year. This brought to three the number of signatory airlines in the CNMI: Asiana Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Fly Guam.
Last Wednesday, Carlos Santos, managing partner of Micronesia Publishing Co., the mother company of Fly Guam, said the airline will soon launch a Saipan-Japan flight and intends to bring three planes on the ground. It currently flies one airplane with a capacity of 144 passengers. It flies from Saipan to Hong Kong on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
“These two airlines are welcome news for the CNMI. With the situation in Japan, these flights will help augment the lost air seats in the key market,” said Deleon Guerrero.
So far this fiscal year, the Northern Marianas has received 19,785 visitors from China. The MVA expects this number to grow significantly as the new flights bring visitors and revenue to Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
“We look forward to the new flights from Guangzhou in our important emerging market of mainland China,” said Marianas Visitors Authority marketing manager Bruce Bateman. “It’s also important that we support these flights with appropriate promotions in Guangzhou, and we are already working on arrangements for a media [familiarization] tour from that region.”
“It is exciting to see air capacity from these major Chinese cities triple in size as a result of these flights,” he added.
In announcing the new flights, Tinian Dynasty International Travel chair Michael Kwan thanked U.S. government and Chinese government authorities, CPA, and the MVA for their support and cooperation in making the new services possible. He also announced that discussion is underway with Sichuan Airlines to operate two more weekly flights direct from their home city Chengdu to Saipan in time for the summer school holiday season beginning July 2011. (With MVA)