Jeju Air Co. Ltd. chief operating officer BooYoung Eum told CNMI officials that Rota International Airport needs some work done to it to meet the airline's requirements to launch direct flight between South Korea and Rota.
Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota), chair of the Rota Legislative Delegation, said island officials are grateful that Jeju Air is seriously considering Rota for direct flights. But he recognizes that preparing Rota's airport for this undertaking would entail cooperation among local and federal agencies.
“And if all works out, Jeju Air might start twice-a-week flight next summer,” Ayuyu said in an interview.
Jeju Air's Eum, in an Aug. 3 letter to CNMI officials, said they have no doubt “Rota and CNMI destinations fulfill the high satisfaction level of Asian travelers who love to experience the nature as a getaway destination.”
“However, as an airline, we believe there are things to be completed before an airline considers inauguration to a new port. For example, facilities such [as] lengths and pavement hardness level of runway, fueling, and part pooling are crucial for airline's operation, but currently, Rota international airport does not satisfy the Jeju Air's requirements,” Eum told Ayuyu, Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola, and Rota Municipal Council chair George Hocog.
Eum said the cost of improving the facilities may need substantial funding “but the activity for making the airport more suitable and operation friendly will result [in] more airlines, including Jeju Air, consider Rota as a new destination.”
“Again, Rota is a good tropical destination for the people from North Asia. However, the linkage between the two parts of the earth seems to be broken. To recover the linkage, cooperation of airlines, [Commonwealth] Ports Authority, FAA [Federal Aviation Administration], airport and government is needed and Jeju Air will be happy to assist for advising and giving comments,” Eum added.
Jeju Air is Korea's third distinguished national airline, following Korean Air and Asiana Air, established by Aekyung Group and Jeju Special Self-Governing Province in January 2005, its website says.
Jeju Air said it currently operates 10 B737-800, some with Winglet. It said each plane has 186 or 189 seats.
The airline, however, said Rota's airport will not be able to accommodate their 189-seater aircraft because of “pavement strength,” and operation hours do not match Jeju Air's business plan.
Jeju Air would like to operate at night. It said Rota airport operates between 6am and 8pm.
Based on Jeju Air's route analysis, it could bring in summer flights from Incheon to Rota with 145 or 147 passengers each flight and in the winter, 149 passengers each flight.
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) separately said Jeju Air's consideration of Rota, including its analysis of Rota airport capacity and capability, is “exciting news for Rota and the CNMI” at a time when the local economy needs a boost in tourist arrivals.