Dynamic Airways brought in about 60 passengers in its maiden flight from Incheon, South Korea yesterday and is already optimistic about its venture to the Asia-Pacific market.
“It’s a thrill for us to do it. It’s our first flight from Korea and hopefully we’ll have a lot more,” said Dynamic Airways ground station manager Paul Sottosanti, who was present to greet the passengers yesterday at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport.
Dynamic Airways is based in Greensboro, North Carolina, and is primarily a charter airline.
“We’re a charter company and we go where the charters are and we decided to venture out to the Asian market,” he said. “We got a call and we want to do it and we became partners with somebody. We deal with different agencies that do bookings from anywhere in Asia to the United States.”
Sottosanti said that serving the Incheon-Saipan route is just the beginning as the carrier plans to expand its operations in the region.
“We’re looking all over. We’re looking maybe Palau or China. We’re venturing out and talking to some people in Japan and China. We’re all over the place.”
According to Sottosanti, Dynamic Airways has four Boeing 767-200s, which normally have a passenger capacity of as much as 250. However, the plane that was used in the inaugural flight tops off at 218 passengers.
Marianas Visitors Authority marketing manager Bruce Bateman couldn’t hide his excitement with the entry of Dynamic Airways as the third signatory airline of the islands, after Delta and Asiana airlines.
“I know they are so far doing twice-weekly regularly scheduled flights and they are a regularly scheduled airline that is U.S. based and they are planning on basing their airplanes here. This is not something that is in Korea that will be flying back and forth to the CNMI. Instead, this is somebody who is basing their airplanes right here and they will be flying to Incheon and flying back here.”
He said the entry of Dynamic Airways will only maximize the potential of the CNMI tourism industry, especially its Korean market.
“Anytime you increase flight arrival potential, you increase the people who are coming in. It’s an old movie line ‘If you build it they will come.’ If we provide seats, people will find themselves wanting to get on that airplane and fill those seats. Obviously it takes promotion and getting the word out. Additional flights mean additional customers here in the CNMI and additional visitors who have a chance to come here and enjoy themselves.”
He was not dissuaded by the 60 or so passengers in the inaugural flight. “This is just the first time and it’s like a trial balloon and they only have around 60 pax onboard.”
Arrivals from Korea soared 23 percent in September to 10,848 visitors, more than any other source market. Overall, arrivals from Korea were up 6 percent to 135,458 in fiscal year 2013 compared to the previous fiscal year.
Those figures don’t surprise Bateman.
“Korean visitors have been going up for a number of years. Tourism always has cycles. There’s up and down and there’s back and there’s forth. But through all of that, Korean arrivals have grown slowly but steadily and that’s a good pattern that they have.”
He said what lures Korean tourists to the Commonwealth is a combination of factors.
“This time of year it’s already snowing up there in some places. So weather is one of them. A second major factor is that when a Korean tourist gets on an airplane, three hours or some later they’re standing here. So proximity is another reason. A third reason is we spend an awful lot of time and energy and a great deal of money focusing on potential Korean travelers’ minds that the fact we exist out here and the fact that they can jump into that airplane and three or so hours later be standing here, laying on a hammock a short time thereafter in between two palm trees, which beats snow boots.”
The MVA official is also upbeat about the continued growth of the CNMI’s other tourism markets.
“Chinese [tourists] are increasing exponentially and, if there are enough rooms, that market would just achieve a capacity that is more than we already have. The Japanese market is holding about steady and the Russian market has doubled during the past year. We need rooms and this is an ideal opportunity for developers or those who already own hotels to come in. It is also a good opportunity for new developers to come online.”