HK Express resumes flights to NMI

MVA staff greets, gives visitors leis

Marianas Visitors Authority marketing staff greet and give shell leis to the passengers of Hong Kong Express during their arrival at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport last Friday afternoon. Hong Kong Express was the first commercial airline to make international flight to the CNMI after Super Typhoon Yutu’s destruction last month shut down the airport. (MVA)

Hong Kong Express arrived at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport last Friday at about 2:35pm with full capacity of 180 passengers from Hong Kong.

It was the first commercial airline to resume international flights to the CNMI after Super Typhoon Yutu’s destruction last Oct. 24 and 25, which shut down the Saipan airport.

Tourists, including children, exit the door upon their arrival at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport last Friday afternoon. The Hong Kong Express, which carried 180 passengers from Hong Kong, was the first commercial airline to resume international flights to the CNMI after Super Typhoon Yutu’s destruction last Oct. 25 and 25, which shut down the Saipan airport. Members of the Marianas Visitors Authority marketing staff greet and give shell leis to the passengers. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Carrying a welcome banner, four Marianas Visitors Authority staff greeted the visitors and gave shell leis to the tourists as they stepped inside the airport’s gate.

MVA marketing manager Thomas Kim, who was among those who greeted the visitors, said it’s been a relief, knowing that tourists are coming back.

“We really need for the flights to come back as soon as possible. We knew it was a working process, knowing that we took a lot of damage from Typhoon Yutu, especially the airport,” Kim said.

Kim said they are thankful to the Commonwealth Ports Authority for allowing them to greet the incoming tourists and for their hard work of opening and operating the airport as soon as possible.

Kim said more international flights will arrive this week. He said they will do airport greetings for each airline company.

Meko Fok and her husband, Martin Ip, said it’s both their idea to come to Saipan after watching about the beautiful island from TV.

Fok and Ip, both 30 years old, said they’re aware about Typhoon Yutu’s destruction to the island last month, but they still proceeded with their travel.

Fok said they appreciate the warm welcome of the MVA staff who gave them shell leis.

“I love it here. I love Saipan,” said Fok, who is an account executive in a company in China. The couple will stay on Saipan for five days.

Liu Yi, a salesperson in Hong Kong, said she was aware of Yutu’s destruction, but still continued her five-day travel to the island to enjoy and relax.

Yi, 25, said their flight was also delayed for several hours due to Typhoon Man-Yi but that she’s very excited to tour the island.

Yi learned about the “beautiful CNMI” upon reading about it in a newspaper.

MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion said they are pleased to welcome Hong Kong Express back as the first commercial airline to resume international flights to the CNMI after Yutu effectively closed the Saipan airport on Oct. 24.

Concepcion said United Airlines has been operating between Saipan and Guam right after the storm but that’s essentially considered a domestic flight between two U.S. jurisdictions.

He said MVA partners in Hong Kong and mainland China, and Korea as well, have been pushing hard behind the scenes to get the airlines to resume regular scheduled service to allow the tourism industry to resume normal operations.

“We are very pleased to see some positive results come to fruition,” he said.

Concepcion said many businesses that have traditionally relied on tourists to survive have suffered tremendous harm from the lack of tourists arriving into the CNMI.

“This has a domino effect on everything else in our islands as [fewer] tourists mean less revenue for businesses, which means less taxes paid to the CNMI government, which means less resources for our government to spend on our needs,” he said.

Concepcion said it’s going to be a huge challenge to get things back to normal in the industry, but they are seeing great things happen.

“We are very positive that things will only get better and continue to improve from here,” he said.

Century Tours operations manager Yumei Bao welcomed 65 customers out of the 180 passengers at the airport.

Bao said their bus was waiting at the airport for the tourists that would bring them straight for sightseeing because the flight was delayed for 12 hours due to the typhoon.

“We feel very happy to welcome the customers because it’s already one month that we don’t have any customer,” Bao said.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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