Hong Kong Airlines became the latest carrier to have direct flights to Saipan with its inaugural flight arriving without much fanfare yesterday. The 292-seat Airbus 330-300 landed at 1:16am at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.
The inaugural flight was scheduled to leave at the Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong but got delayed for almost an hour as they prevented four passengers to get on the plane
Hong Kong Airlines Saipan Station Airport Services supervisor May Joan Cabrera Boongaling said the flight was only 46 minutes delayed from its expected time of arrival of 12:30am.
“They have to offload four passengers on the flight since one will have an expired passport if they arrive here on Saipan,” said Boongaling, who added that this is Hong Kong Airlines’ first station that is under the United States.
“Hong Kong Airlines started flying mostly in Chinese cities before offering flights to Australia and Canada. Central office wanted to penetrate the U.S. market that’s why we wanted to put our best foot forward,” Boongaling.
“They carefully planned and put more attention for the inaugural flight. We wanted to make a good impression. The inaugural flight went smoothly, except for that incident where we have to offload some passengers,” she added.
“We have twice a week flights, inbound and outbound, and right now we’re booked for the month of July. Management will carefully study if it’s possible to add a few more flights here on Saipan but for sure we are planning to have routes in key cities in the mainland U.S. soon,” said Boongaling.
Most of the 290 plus passengers are families looking to spend some quality time at the beach and tourists who wanted to try playing in some of the island’s gaming facilities. They booked their tour packages with Hong Kong travel agents.
Boongaling is Hong Kong Airlines’ lone representative on Saipan, while a number of staff from their central office were on the island for a few weeks to train personnel from Pacific Oriental, Inc., HK Airlines’ partner in ground handling.
“They just assisted in training POI staff in getting familiar with the system used when passengers check in, and handling and loading cargo,” Boongaling said.
POI Airport Service supervisor Vic Reyes said this is the sixth airline company that they partnered with. Korean carriers Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, and Jin Air, China Eastern, and Philippine Airlines Express are the others. He added that POI has enough staff to fulfill its obligations.
“So far we’re still good in handling all six airlines. We have enough staff to assist the passengers and work on the said air carriers. If each of them increased its flights then we will surely add more personnel,” said Reyes.