A Korean-based airline that will temporarily pull out of the CNMI told the Commonwealth Ports Authority that high fuel rates and hotel costs contributed to their decision.
Saipan airport manager William Camacho, who met with the House Transportation Committee chaired by Rep. Donald Barcinas (R-Saipan) yesterday, said that Jin Air’s decision to temporarily suspend five weekly Seoul-Saipan flights starting March 25 was partially due to high fuel and hotel rates compared to neighboring Guam.
“Prices of fuel…as well as hotel rates…[are] high in the CNMI. Those are the things that they have mentioned to our own committee dealing with airline slot time approvals,” Camacho said, citing communication from Jin Air headquarters.
“They are saying that Guam is a lot cheaper than here, so that is a reason why the Korean market declined a bit here,” he added. “They are only suspending though, for the summer schedule, but they are planning to [resume flights] for the winter schedule, which is [the] end of October,” he said, adding that Jin Air is keeping its office on Saipan, which Camacho said is a “good sign.”
This statement was CPA’s response to Barcinas, when he asked the agency about their plans to retain existing airlines in the Marianas.
CPA board member Barry Toves, who also responded to Barcinas, said the Saipan airport is capable of providing airline services and that his committee, the CPA board committee for airline facilities, would discuss as well look into the matter.
The Marianas Visitors Authority last Feb. 26, indicated in a press release a drop in Korean arrivals in January 2018 of about 7 percent compared to January 2017.
“We want to find out first if it’s a business decision…or whatnot because we want to be able to address whatever challenges we have,” said Toves.
After the meeting, Barcinas told Saipan Tribune that he suggested to CPA to “look at other routes” for the tourism industry to prosper.
“We [should] look at other routes so that we could avoid what happened to the Japan market,” he said, referring to Delta Air Lines’ plan to end the Narita-Saipan route.
“We need to look at other routes such as Korea or China so that we can maintain the level of tourism and the income we are getting from these sources,” he said, adding that the CNMI government needs to be proactive.
The Delta pullout would be effective this May 6.