Asiana Airlines will operate additional three flights per week beginning next month in anticipation of the increased passenger demand during the winter season.
The extra flights between Saipan and Seoul will be offered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between Dec. 23 and March 1. Asiana will provide the flights in addition to its daily service between the two destinations.
The service will utilize Airbus 322 aircraft with a capacity of 177 seats.
Departure from Incheon International Airport will be at 9:50pm, with an estimated arrival time of 2:50am. The Seoul-bound service is scheduled to leave Saipan at 3:50am and arrive in Incheon at 7:30a.
“We’re expecting family tourists and various other types of travelers to visit Saipan during the winter season. In fact, right now, we are already getting bookings for March trips,” Asiana-Saipan general manager Kwang Joong Kim said.
The airline official also reported that Asiana continues to use a larger aircraft for its regular Saipan-Seoul flights. The airline has upgraded from 260-seat Boeing 767 to 310-seat Boeing 777 planes beginning Sept. 15, 2005.
According to Kim, the airline is likely to keep the larger airplanes all year round in 2006, especially if efforts to develop the China and Russia markets succeed.
Asiana, in cooperation with Marianas Visitors Authority and its members, had invited travel agents from both Russia and China to tour the Northern Marianas and see for themselves what the destination has to offer.
“They [tour agents] were very excited about this place. They were very positive about promoting the CNMI in their respective markets and they promised to bring many people here,” Kim said.
Asiana flies to 17 cities in China and two cities in Russia. The airline plans on bringing in more Chinese and Russian travelers to the CNMI via Seoul.
Kim said the one-stop flight is particularly convenient for Russian travelers from Khabarovsk because of the good timing of the flights.
Travel time between Khabarovsk and Seoul is only two hours. Upon arriving at Incheon airport, passengers need only wait two hours before the connecting flight departs. The flight from Seoul to Saipan takes about four hours and 30 minutes.
Furthermore, Asiana is also continuing efforts to provide options for Japanese travelers who wish to visit the Northern Marianas.
Kim reported that Asiana and MVA’s respective offices in Japan were working together to bring in tourists from four Japanese cities via Seoul. The target markets are Sendai, Fukushima, Toyama, and Kumamoto.
Northwest Airlines, the only air carrier now providing direct service between Japan and Saipan, serves the Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka markets.