ROTA-Arctic Circle Air Services, Inc. assured the CNMI of its uninterrupted cargo services as the company's inaugural passenger flight from Saipan to Rota touched down yesterday at the Benjamin Taisacan Manglona International Airport amid strong winds.
Underscoring passenger safety, the company's operations team gave the go-signal to proceed with the 30-minute flight chartered by Rota Resort & Country Club.
The maiden flight departed the Saipan commuter terminal shortly before 8am with pilot Roland R. Mamuad and his seven passengers consisting of Arctic Circle Air's Anthony Pellegrino, general manager Amjad M. Fahroud, JMSH, LLC vice president Jae H. Hong, and reporters.
Upon arrival, the airline passengers and crew were greeted by resort staff who welcomed them with fresh leis. Saipan Tribune learned that a Korean family of four also left at 4pm yesterday for Rota where they will be staying for a month.
Arctic Circle Air officials said Thursday that they are offering thrice a day, six times a week passenger flights starting Monday with JMSH, LLC president Hee Cho's purchase of the airline company's majority of shares.
JMSH, LLC owns and operates Rota Resort & Country Club and hotel properties in Guam such as the Holiday Resort & Spa.
Rota Resort & Country Club handles the bookings and reservations. Bookings and reservations may be made by calling 532-1155.
With its $179 per-passenger airfare, Arctic Circle Air offers a lower rate compared to existing airlines that offer similar services.
Pellegrino said in yesterday's press conference at Rota Resort & Country Club's Pacifica Restaurant & Bar that they discovered the need to have passenger flights within months after they began cargo operations.
He said the inaugural flight is expected to jumpstart Arctic Circle Air's venture, with plans to expand company operations within the year by getting more planes as well as hiring additional pilots and other employees.
“It will take time, just like anything. But the concept is solid,” he said.
Hong said they have been receiving a lot of inquiries regarding the flights.
“On behalf of the Rota Resort & Country Club management and staff, we are honored and pleased to have a contribution in the efforts to improve the quality of life of the people of Rota,” said Hong.
He noted, however, that the Rota flights have no definite schedule and would depend on the passengers as they are charter-based, adding that they will try to arrange similar daily departure and arrival times.
Hong said that Monday's initial flight aboard the nine-seater Britten-Norman aircraft will have a great impact not only in the daily lives of Rota residents but also the tourism industry of the CNMI's southernmost island.
With the commencement of regular flights between Saipan and Rota, Hong said Arctic Circle Air is already looking at the best configuration for the 10 additional planes that will be added to the company's fleet.
For now, Hong said they have their eyes set on a brand-new, 19-seater Y-12 aircraft from China that is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. The aircraft is believed to cost between $5 million and $7million.
Once the additional aircraft arrive, Hong disclosed plans to begin passenger services between Guam and Rota.
He acknowledged the cooperation of local leaders who have expressed support for Arctic Circle Air and Rota Resort & Country Club's endeavor, some of whom attended last week's press conference.
Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola, who arrived in Monday's event shortly after his Guam business trip, said that Arctic Circle Air's launching of passenger flights gives better transportation access and improved air services for the community and potential visitors.
“You sympathize with the situation of Rota and we are very happy with your commitment to the island,” said Mendiola, adding that it is a “wise decision” on the part of company to start their passenger services at a small scale, then later expand as the need arises.
Mendiola also challenged existing and other airlines, saying that this newest airline venture on Rota should not stop others from providing needed services on Rota and the rest of the CNMI.
“The more capability that Rota has, the more it can be served,” he said.
The inaugural flight returned to Saipan before noon.