The Commonwealth Ports Authority is holding off on making a decision on the requests of Air Busan and Air Seoul to launch inaugural flight to Saipan around Nov. 23.
In a statement from CPA chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds, she said that CPA is holding off on making a decision on the airlines’ requests as it works with the COVID-19 Task Force and the Marianas Visitors Authority to ensure that the CNMI has the capacity to accommodate additional Travel Bubble flights.
“Doing the right thing at this point is collaborating with the task force and MVA in vetting whether or not we can welcome additional flights. We are still gathering more information, figuring out logistics and capacity and, until we have all the necessary data and information, we are holding off in making a decision,” she said.
King-Hinds said Air Busan and Air Seoul have requested to launch their inaugural flight to Saipan by Nov. 23 or 24 but CPA wants to make sure it is in the community’s best interest to approve new flights at this time.
“The two new airlines, Air Seoul and Air Busan, are proposing to come in around Nov. 23 and 24 for their inaugural flights. However, we want to make sure that we have the capacity to welcome those flights given the current situation. We are working with MVA to ensure that we continue to meet all mandates with regards to COVID protocols and that we have the capacity to welcome additional guests at this time. This is a highly fluid situation given the circumstances and we just want to make sure that we are doing the right thing for our community,” she said.
According to Saipan Tribune archives, the Marianas Visitors Authority’s tourism resumption program, or TRIP, cannot accommodate all the Travel Bubble participants interested in coming to the CNMI because there isn’t enough room at the hybrid quarantine facility to accommodate all of them.
Because of the CNMI’s growing popularity in South Korea as the only marketable destination and the safest destination to travel, bookings continue to grow in numbers every day and airlines have also started proposing to increase daily flights to Saipan due to the demand.
Two hotels have already submitted proposals, or have shown an interest in submitting a proposal, to serve as a hybrid quarantine facility but to date, MVA has yet to release the names of which hotel has submitted proposals.
With the proposals, the CNMI can expect its hybrid quarantine facility to expand by roughly up to 140 more rooms.
“As a result of these numbers, we need to take a long hard look at expanding the hybrid quarantine in order to keep up with the volume,” said TRIP Korea chair Ivan Quichocho.