‘A bad deal all around’


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres discussed with local authorities what could be done about the United Airlines’ decision to pull Cape Air United Express out of Rota while a local lawmaker condemned the decision to discontinue flights to the CNMI’s southernmost island.

According to a statement from the administration, Torres, along with Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog met with Commonwealth Ports Authority officials to discuss what can possibly be done now that Rota would lack reliable transportation to both Saipan and Guam. Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), on the other hand, condemned the decision, describing it as a lose-lose situation for the Marianas.

The statement followed a United Airlines memorandum over the weekend informing their employees that they would discontinue servicing Rota from Saipan and Guam through Cape Air and instead set up their own flight routes from Guam to Saipan using Boeing 737-800 jet aircrafts.

A follow-up statement from United Airlines said that it is severing Micronesian ties with Cape Air, including their flights to Saipan from Guam.

According to a statement from the Torres administration, both Torres and Hocog would be discussing with United Airlines’ services between Saipan and Guam.

“[Torres and Hocog] take this matter very seriously and will engage with all relevant stakeholders and the community on a positive path forward. This administration recognizes the importance of safe and reliable transportation to the island of Rota and Tinian, and we remain committed to ensuring that goal is met,” the statement said.

Demapan, in response to an inquiry from Saipan Tribune, referred to the news as “disappointing.”

“We will lose critical air service to and from Rota, placing undue hardship on the residents of Rota, visitors who travel to Rota, and medical referral patients from Rota,” said Demapan. He added that Cape Air employees are left hanging.

“…United Airlines has given no indication on whether they would be willing to absorb the staff of Cape Air that are based in the CNMI. I’d like to urge United Airlines to give these employees priority consideration because if they are going to be displaced from the workforce, it will also affect the livelihoods of their families,” he said.

Demapan believes the new schedule United Airlines set for the Guam-Saipan route is “problematic all around.”

According to a previous stateent from United Airlines’ corporate communications, the new routes would leave Guam for Saipan at 7am and arrive on 7:45am, with a return flight leaving Saipan at 8:45am and arriving in Guam at 9:30am. United Airlines did not state an afternoon flight.

“Their schedule is not good for the CNMI in the short or long term. It only serves inter-island traffic between Saipan and Guam. However, passengers going to Japan or Honolulu and beyond will have to [stay] overnight in Guam because the once-a-day flight from Saipan gets to Guam when all connecting flights have left for the day,” Demapan said.

“Coupled with the exit of Delta on May 6, the only way to get to Japan and the U.S. is via United and the mandatory overnight stay in Guam,” he said.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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