A possible partnership between the CNMI government and United Airlines is in the works, after the airline responded to a lawmaker’s concerns about its recent announcement to withdraw Cape Air services to Rota and Saipan.
In a letter dated May 1, 2018, addressed to United Airlines chief executive officer Oscar Munoz and airlines president Scott Kirby, Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) expressed concerns relating to the discontinuation of Cape Air services to Rota and reducing Saipan flights to Guam to once-daily starting May 31, 2018.
Cape Air would continue servicing the Rota-Guam, Rota-Saipan, and Saipan-Guam routes for 23 more days until United itself takes over the daily Saipan-Guam flights.
“The discontinuation of the Cape Air services to Rota will greatly impact the economic opportunity to grow as it will have devastating effect on tourism, medical referral transportation, employment, and potential development and investment ventures on Rota,” Palacios said, adding that withdrawing Cape Air services would force Rota to rely on the limited flights and seats of other air transportation services.
In a response, United Airlines managing director Dan Weiss stated there was an understanding that the airline would need to enter a partnership with the CNMI government.
In a conference call on April 30, 2018, Weiss and the leadership from “United Guam’s hub” said that United had presented a proposal to Gov. Ralph DLG, Torres, Commonwealth Ports Authority board member Kimberly King-Hinds, and other CPA representatives for the operations on Rota “and did so in a gesture of partnership with the community.”
After “thoughtful and important” questions from Torres and King-Hinds, it was indicated that the next step was for the government to discuss the matter internally.
“Given the demand for air service to Rota is small for a large jet operation, United would need to enter into a financial partnership with the government and that was well understood on our call,” Weiss told Palacios.
A previous internal communication from United announced to employees that they were discontinuing their services with Cape Air in their Saipan-Guam, Rota-Guam, and Rota-Saipan flights effective May 31, 2018.
United corporate communications later told Saipan Tribune that they were going to sever ties with Cape Air in Micronesia.