A lawmaker believes Beijing Airlines should be allowed to come to the CNMI since prior arrangements have given the airline the right to enter the islands.
House Committee on Commerce and Tourism chair Rep. Joseph “Lee Pan” Guerrero (R-Saipan) also urged Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to reconsider barring the airline’s entry.
“If we lose this number, it’s going to hurt us,” said Guerrero, referring to the $600,000 in potential losses local hotels and the airline face if the flight suspension pushes through.
Guerrero added that the reputations of both Beijing Capital Airlines, which runs Beijing Air, and the CNMI, are on the line.
“I highly recommend that the governor should reconsider and allow this airline to come in,” he said.
Guerrero said that the hotel occupancy issues should been looked at “a long time ago.”
“We knew that this was forthcoming. We knew that we were bound to see the number of tourists rise,” he said, citing Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands’ statistics showing 97 percent occupancy rates for member-hotels.
“I hope that the governor would consider allowing [Beijing Air] to fly in because they have scheduled their flights already. It is a huge loss for the airlines [and especially for the CNMI] in the event that they don’t fly in,” he said, adding that subsequent airlines seeking permission to offer flights to the CNMI be the ones barred for now.
In a June 8 letter to the Commonwealth Ports Authority, Torres requested the CPA board to implement a 60-day moratorium (“or until further notice”), barring new international flights from entering the CNMI.
Because of this, Beijing Air, which has already secured a permit from the U.S. Department of Transportation last Jan. 17, 2017, to fly to Saipan and was expected to make its maiden flight this June 29, 2017, was dismayed after a letter from CPA informed it that it is included in the temporary ban.
Beijing Air then sued CPA and CPA executive director Chris Tenorio last Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
A statement from the Torres administration states that they received the complaint last Wednesday and has chosen to first review the complaint before making a more substantial statement.
“The Office of the Governor will continue to conduct its review of the complaint and will make a decision to move forward with the relevant parties involved. We will provide additional information as soon as we conclude our review,” added the statement.
HANMI, who at first supported the moratorium, has withdrawn its support after realizing that Beijing Air was included in the temporary ban.