FROM DC 10 TO B747 Northwest braces for more tourists

Posted on Jun 24 1999

In anticipation of the influx of visitors this summer, Northwest Airlines would be replacing its current DC 10 aircraft to a B747 to accommodate additional number of passengers coming to Saipan.

However, in exchange for the increased seat capacity, Northwest Airlines wants the Commonwealth Ports Authority to extend its incentive program until October 2000.

According to Martin Gross, general manager for Northwest Philippines & Micronesia, the proposal will make it economically feasible for the airline to carry out its plan to use a bigger aircraft.

“If we are unable to accomplish this goal, the 747 will be assigned to other competing Northwest Airlines regions who are simultaneously pushing for an upgauge of their aircraft,” said Gross. The 371-seater Boeing 747 aircraft will be able to accommodate an additional 49 passengers compared.

CPA Board Chairman Roman S. Palacios said the ports authority will study the airline’s request and will make an analysis on its effect on debt payment.

Earlier, Thomas C. Kennedy, director for finance of Northwest Pacific Region, has asked CPA to defer the implementation of its incentive program for airlines servicing the CNMI because it could not immediately change its current DC10 aircraft to a B747.

CPA has granted a 50 percent cut in departure and arrival fees to all signatory airlines servicing the Northern Marianas to entice them to increase traffic and revive the ailing tourism economy.

The incentive, which will be in effect until February 29, 2000, will be extended to carriers that can provide an additional 15 percent increase in the number of passengers that they bring in using the first six months traffic in fiscal year 1998 as the traffic base.

CPA Executive Director Carlos H. Salas had expressed concern in altering the date of the incentive program because it is critical in terms of generating the needed revenue to meet debt service coverage and the imposition of the new airport rates in March 2000.

Despite the financial difficulty besetting the ports authority, the board granted the incentive to signatory airlines as proof of its commitment to improve the tourism economy. However, it did not approve a reduction in landing fees sought by Northwest since it would be difficult to provide equal incentives to all the four airlines using different types of aircraft.

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