The CNMI’s only direct airline service to Narita, Japan and also provides connecting service to the U.S. mainland officially took its final flight yesterday, bidding farewell to the islands.
Delta Air Lines, the CNMI’s only direct flight to Japan, officially operated its last flight between Saipan and Japan yesterday and it was a tear-jerking scene.
Delta has served the CNMI for 29 years and decided back in February to pull out from its partnership with Saipan due to low passenger rates.
According to Marianas Visitors Authority executive director Christ Concepcion, MVA did everything they could to keep the route open but Delta’s pullout soon became inevitable.
Yesterday, while Delta staff boarded passengers of the final Saipan to Narita flight, a small farewell party was put together, with Delta’s passengers being provided free snacks and Delta giveaways. Delta even provided a free photo booth.
Delta staff, especially those who have been with Delta for many years, were moved to tears as they said their goodbyes to one another and as they watched the final flight depart.
The Commonwealth Ports Authority also paid its respects with a water salute as the Boeing 757 jet proceeded to take off.
According to CPA deputy director Edward Mendiola, it was sad to see Delta leave, but he remains hopeful that Delta will reconsider and return in the future.
Concepcion, who is also a former Delta employee, said that it was bittersweet to see the flight leave for good.
“Delta has been the CNMI’s strongest partner in the Japan market for the last 29 years and so it’s sad to bid them farewell today as they operate their last flight from Saipan, but there are opportunities for the Japan market to continue to grow…we’re excited for the future but we’re sad to see a brand as good as Delta that has been here for the last 29 years leave the CNMI,” he said.
According to a previous interview with Concepcion, he said the CNMI should remain optimistic and expect air service from Japan to come this August and plans have already been discussed for the near future that could possibly double fights from Japan to Saipan.
“We have about 30 flights coming in for the month…we are still working on additional flights to fill the void between now and then and between then and when the new airlines that’s planning to fly the CNMI makes a formal launch,” he said.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres also announced this weekend that he met with Skymark Airlines, Japan’s third largest carrier headquartered at the Haneda Airport in Tokyo, to discuss the launch of direct flight services from Japan to Saipan for the upcoming winter schedule.
“I met with Skymark Airlines executives a couple months ago to discuss the launch of direct flights from Japan to Saipan later this year. I am pleased to say that Skymark has begun evaluating the launch of direct flights, targeting a launch during the upcoming winter schedule. They have met with the Marianas Visitors Authority, the Commonwealth Ports Authority, and other government agencies who have all offered their full support to Skymark. A more formal announcement will be made as soon as their evaluation process and official decision is complete,” Torres said.
Concepcion said the CNMI is currently working to secure flights between Saipan and Japan because the Japan market remains a pillar in the tourism industry of the CNMI.