Marianas Southern Airways launches its inaugural flight today


Photo shows Marianas Southern Airways’ airplane, called “The Spirit of Saipan.” (MSA)

After several months of bated breath, the day has finally come—the CNMI’s newest commuter airline, Marianas Southern Airways is all set to see off its first flight to Tinian at around 9am today. This flight, Stewart said, is just the first of MSA’s series of inaugural flights.

On Monday, Stewart said, MSA will launch its first flight to Rota at around 8am, then on Thursday, the inaugural flight to Guam will take to the skies at around 11am.

“It’s kind of a phase progression because we are running on one aircraft right now. Flight schedules will pick up as we bring in more aircrafts,” he said.

Stewart explained that, as of yesterday, MSA only has one of its three Tecnam twin-engine aircraft and one spare plane, so their inaugural flights will have to be spread out throughout the next few days.

MSA is expecting its second Tecnam plane to arrive on Monday, so regular flights should start around next week Saturday. As for the third Tecnam aircraft, Stewart said MSA expects it will arrive toward the end of the month.

Stewart, who calls the CNMI home, said he is very excited that after nearly two years, MSA is finally at the launching stage of its endeavor. He shared that the path was long and it started with a common goal to help develop the CNMI community.

“I really have no background whatsoever in aviation myself. My background is really construction, real estate development, and so that’s why we partnered with Southern Airways on this venture. Together, as we tried to come up with ways to help develop the economy here by creating other industries to create jobs, we found that without reliable and affordable air transportation, it’s really impossible for an island economy to grow, let alone thrive. So we looked at it from a business standpoint, trying to look at what we could do, and found that the need was to resolve the lack of affordable transportation,” he said.

Marianas Southern Airways president Keith Stewart at the MSA office. (MSA)

“We’re extremely excited about what’s going on. However, our goal isn’t to just come in and just build an airline here. Our goal is to figure out how do we help this economy thrive. So our plan is not to just go through and stop here. We’re planning on still purchasing probably three or four more of the Tecnam aircraft, based on the demand, and continue to build up the interisland service. It’s going to have a huge impact,” Stewart added.

Initially, Stewart said, he and his partners that make up MP Enterprise were working on Marianas Pacific Airlines, which is a larger international airline to connect the islands to Australia, the Philippines, Korea, and Japan. However, due to COVID-19 and the abrupt suspension of interisland travel last December, the team decided to focus on the immediate problem—connecting the Marianas through air transportation.

“So as we were working through that during COVID, we kept looking and trying to figure out when’s the right time to move forward. When [the COVID variant] omicron was going on, the need to resolve interisland travel was [prominent]. It wasn’t what we were planning on doing, but we saw that the need was definitely there when interisland service was stopped between islands. That’s what started us on the journey,” Stewart said. “So we started making some phone calls, and reached out to Southern Airways CEO Stan Little, and in January they flew down and we started meeting and just started putting together what we thought were immediate needs.”

Although interisland travel resumed shortly after, Stewart said that, from an emergency standpoint, the team saw the immediate need for another interisland travel provider, which is why their focus has since been launching its interisland service.

Stewart said that once the interisland service has officially launched and has become sustainable, MP Enterprise will revert its focus back to the international side.

“While the interisland travel is going to be transformative for our islands, bringing the international service in will be completely transformative for the economy,” he said.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at
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