AS S. KOREA RAISES CORONAVIRUS THREAT LEVEL
With South Korea recently raising its coronavirus threat level, the Commonwealth Ports Authority is now presented with more uncertainties as the East Asian country is the CNMI’s biggest market for tourists, according to CPA executive director Christopher S. Tenorio yesterday.
At the CPA board’s regular meeting at the Port of Saipan conference room, Tenorio said that raising the threat level allows the South Korean government to lock down cities in an effort to contain the outbreak, if needed.
He cited a recent article in The New York Times indicating that South Korea’s number of confirmed new coronavirus cases has doubled.
As a protective measure, CPA continues to work with the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. in putting up screening measures at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.
“CHCC personnel are present during flight operations,” he said.
In tandem with this, CPA continues to work on projects to repair the damage caused by Super Typhoon Yutu and Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018, Tenorio said.
He said the projects are moving along. Some of those projects are the loading bridges design, commuter terminal design, and the ARFF Training Facility. The bigger projects require design-build and then still need to be bid out.
Four carriers—Beijing Capital, China Eastern, HK Express, and Sichuan Airlines—have already suspended flights into Saipan.
Beijing Capital suspended flights from Jan. 31 to March 28, 2020; China Eastern from Feb. 1 until further notice; Hong Kong Express from Feb. 6 to March 29, 2020; and Sichuan Airlines from Feb. 1 until further notice.
Although some airlines have given timeframes for the suspension of flights, these are not hard dates, and may still change, said CPA comptroller Skye Lynn L. Aldan Hofschneider.
These four airlines provide a significant percentage of the total revenue collected by CPA, averaging an estimated $282,537 per month, said Hofschneider in her report about the coronavirus’ financial impact on CPA.
Should the flight suspensions extend until the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2020), the total revenue loss is estimated at $3,916,297: $2,260,292 in flights suspensions (China routes), $848,677 in aviation revenue due to load decrease, and $807,328 in non-aviation revenue (concession and others).
She said the CPA management is working with department heads in reducing their operational budgets for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The estimated loss of $3.91 million is expected to further increase as Asiana Airlines announced last Feb. 17 that it is cancelling its regular morning flights from Feb. 27 to Feb. 29 and the morning flights from March 4 to March 18. Their afternoon flights will continue normal operations.