CPA looks at FY 2024 budget; lays concerns about source markets
The Commonwealth Ports Authority is looking into what a fiscal year 2024 budget will look like based on the conditions of flights and the present available markets.
Currently, Asiana Airlines flights are twice a week and are scheduled up to March 2023. T’Way Air, whose flights come in four times a week, is only scheduled up to January 2023, while Jeju Air and United Airlines come in daily.
According to CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds after their board meeting last Thursday, she said if [Asiana and T’Way airlines stop services and do not continue past what they have submitted in terms of schedule, “then we have to go back and start looking at our numbers and looking at the budget and making the necessary adjustments.”
Even with the current flights coming in, it is not sufficient as CPA’s operations are largely supported by the American Rescue Plan Act funds. CPA received $2.2 million in August 2021 and will have exhausted it by the end of this fiscal year.
The $2.2 million allocated to CPA through the central government was required to be used specifically for the restoration of employees’ work hours from August 2021 through fiscal year 2023 and to bring CPA to full operational capacity, said a CPA press release from August 2021.
A budget spreadsheet provided by King-Hinds shows that the FY 2023 budget of CPA’s airports is $6.75 million, while the total operation and personnel costs is $14 million. Some $6.26 million is for personnel costs, while $7.78 million is for operations and maintenance.
“So, if we were to look at a budget for next year, and [there are] no new entrants to the market, or we don’t see an increase in flights coming in, there’s some serious concerns about our ability to maintain our operation if we did not have any additional flights or supplemental funding outside of the revenues that we are generating, to be able to continue to maintain our operations at a higher rate than we do now,” said King-Hinds.
At the same time, while CPA is looking at the forecast for next fiscal year, they are also “tightening the belt” for the remainder of the fiscal year in anticipation that Asiana and T’Way airlines will potentially not continue services past the dates that they are currently scheduled for.
King-Hinds recollected that pre-pandemic, the CNMI had three source markets—Japan, Korea, and China—but right now, it’s just Japan and Korea. But that, “even if we were to go back to the level in terms of the number of arrivals from Japan and Korea pre-pandemic, if we don’t get the China market back online, we will not be generating the revenue and be at the level that we were generating pre-pandemic.”
These are the factors that CPA is in discussion about how they can start planning and preparing to continue to be self-sustainable and maintain operations moving forward.
With the Marianas Visitors Authority looking at the China market maybe resuming in the spring or summer of 2023, King-Hinds said it would definitely help, because there is currently nothing from it.
“If that market comes back online, then that’s a boost and is very welcome and much needed at this point in time. …We’re hopeful that they are tired of being locked down and that they’re looking to come and vacation and have some fun in the sun in the Marianas.”
Again, King-Hinds said that CPA has to plan for the best- and worst-case scenarios, along with having contingencies in terms of what would be an appropriate level of funding that is required to ensure that CPA is able to provide services, as well as pay the bills.
“It’s all kind of like a work-in-progress. We have to be very cautious with how we spend the money. We have to start planning for different scenarios: One, which includes them coming back online, one which does not. If we’re looking at them coming in summer of 2023, then that’s still within this fiscal year so, hopefully, we can make up for whatever shortfall as a result. So let’s say for example, Asiana stays offline for a little bit until… Hopefully, we get the China market to make up for that. But you know, those are all obviously not guaranteed.”
CPA operates the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, the Benjamin Taisacan Manglona International Airport/Rota International Airport on Rota, and the Tinian International Airport, as well as all CNMI seaports.