Air Busan to start Busan-Saipan route this month

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Air Busan, which is interested in tapping into the South Korean travel bubble in place for the CNMI, will officially start providing Busan-Saipan charters as early as this Sunday, Jan. 23.

During a board meeting last Tuesday, majority of the Marianas Visitors Authority board voted in favor of subsidizing six Air Busan charter flights starting Jan. 23 in partnership with Micronesia Resort Inc.

Micronesia Resort Inc. operates the Kensington Hotel Saipan, Pacific Islands Club Saipan, and Coral Ocean Resort Saipan.

The first flight is expected to arrive on Jan. 23, followed by its next flight on Jan. 30. There will also be four Air Busan charters flying into the CNMI on Feb. 6, 13, 20, and 27 under this agreement.

A 6-1 vote carried the motion last Tuesday with board member Marian Aldan Pierce as the only vote in opposition. Meanwhile, Gloria Cavanagh recused herself from the voting due to a conflict of interest.

According to MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo, helping subsidize this charter is a great opportunity for the CNMI to build a relationship with a new airline. In turn, the hope is that after the six charter flights, Air Busan will continue to provide regular scheduled flights from Busan to Saipan.

“As we know, in the month of February we’re only going to be receiving Incheon flights. This is also an opportunity for us to partner with a new airline considering the current position in Korea, how they’re really moving forward with the booster shots. The sentiments there are that they’re starting to feel more comfortable. Although they saw a surge again of omicron, it’s not as bad as it was with delta so we feel, based on the numbers in January, with only one airline that has been overbooked, we really do need another airline to come on board and to have it in another city. I think this is a great opportunity for us,” she said.

Based on the proposal presented to the board, Air Busan passengers will receive incentives such as “travel bucks” that will go directly to the passenger.

In addition, MVA will also provide a $10,000 subsidy per flight that will go to directly to MRI, which is essentially spearheading the charter.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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