HK Express explains actions in case of stranded passengers


Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Christopher S. Tenorio, third from left, gives a report during CPA board’s regular meeting Tuesday at the CPA conference room at the Port of Saipan. (Ferdie De La Torre)

To ensure that no Hong Kong Express passenger would be left stranded in the CNMI, the airline reportedly reached out to their business partners, travel agencies, and ground handling agent soon after canceling flights to the CNMI.

In a letter to Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Christopher S. Tenorio dated Feb. 20, Hong Kong Express Airways Ltd. chief executive officer Mandy Ng said that he was told that no HKE passenger has communicated to them about being stranded.

He also discussed in his letter the series of actions they immediately took upon their decision to suspend services.

Tenorio wrote to HKE last Feb. 18 concerning stranded Chinese travelers in the CNMI. Last Feb. 13, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres also wrote HKE to express his “grave concern” over the plight of 130 travelers who were left stranded in the CNMI after HKE suspended flights to and from the CNMI last Feb. 6 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in China.

Last Monday, press secretary Kevin Bautista said the CNMI government continues its efforts to have the remaining 40% of the original 130 stranded passengers repatriated, with the help of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles.

Ng explained that following Torres’ issuance of an executive order last Jan. 29 declaring a state of significant emergency due to the virus, they received a letter from CPA the following day requesting HKE’s assistance in suspending the arrival of travelers transiting directly or indirectly from mainland China to the CNMI.

Ng said that, considering the large number of travelers who were still in the CNMI during Chinese New Year period, HKE closely monitored the number of passengers traveling out of the CNMI before considering the suspension of services to and from Saipan.

The CEO said that, following the suspension of other direct air services between the CNMI and mainland China, they were aware of the possibility of passengers being left stranded in the CNMI.

Beijing Capital Airlines suspended flights on Jan. 31, while China Eastern Airlines and Sichuan Airlines did so on Feb. 1.

Ng noted that this is precisely the reason why it was not until Feb. 4 that HKE had to make the difficult decision to suspend services between Saipan and Hong Kong from Feb. 6 to March 28.

Upon suspension of their services, Ng said they immediately notified all their affected passengers via email and short messaging service, and provided them the option of either a full refund or change to any other route within the HKE network.

He said they also published a travel advisory on their official website advising passengers about the suspension of services between Saipan and Hong Kong.

Ng added that they provided their affected passengers contact details to reach out to HKE.

He said they reached out to business partners and travel agencies they work with in Hong Kong and mainland China, reconfirming that none of their customers are stranded in the CNMI.

Ng said their ground handling agent at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, POI Aviation, has also confirmed that no HKE passenger has reached out to them as a result of being stranded.

“Our call center has neither received any calls nor emails from HKE passengers requesting for assistance as a result of being stranded in Saipan following the suspension of our services,” he said.

The CEO said they have also contacted the Marianas Visitors Authority requesting assistance in communicating with CPA for contact details of any HKE passengers that may have been stranded.

Ng said they have been working closely with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in Hong Kong since last Feb. 15, who, in turn, has been working with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles.

Ng said they have provided HKE with details of 35 passengers who were/are on Saipan.

He said they have reached out to all 35 passengers and have been able to contact all except four.

The CEO said prompt assistance was provided to the 31.

Ng said Chinese nationals stranded in the CNMI were advised to contact the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
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