MSA to stop flying after April 1


After weeks of uncertainty, Marianas Southern Airways is throwing in the towel and has officially announced that it will cease operations after April 1.

In an open letter addressed to CNMI and Guam residents, Marianas Southern Airways officially announced yesterday that April 1 will be its final day of operation after failing to secure a meeting with the Palacios administration to discuss the matter.

“For the past year we have been working with and serving amazing groups of people throughout the Mariana Islands. Unfortunately, April 1 will be our last day of operations,” the letter stated.

According to William Giles, MSA vice president, to date, the administration has still refused to meet with MSA to possibly come to some kind of compromise regarding their contract.

“It’s a sad day. They just refuse to even meet. They sent a second letter that basically said the same as the first; we don’t have any money,” said Giles.

MSA president Keith Stewart reiterated Giles’ comment and added that they’ll never know if the administration and MSA could have come to a compromise as the administration never met with them.

“Unfortunately, we were never able to get a meeting with the administration,” he said.

Southern Airways, the operating partner of Marianas Southern Airways, also issued a letter explaining that the reason it’s withdrawing as the operating airline for MSA is because of Gov. Arnold I. Palacios’ unwillingness to honor the contract for passenger air service.

“The decision is based on the unwillingness of Gov. Arnold Palacios to honor the contract signed by the previous administration,” said the letter.

When asked about this during yesterday’s kickoff of Zero Waste Week, Palacios said he stands by his decision to terminate the sole-source contract between the administration and MSA since the CNMI does not have the funds to uphold it.

“That’s unfortunate, to be honest. We wanted them to stay, but the unfortunate situation with the agreement. If that’s [what it takes] for them to stay, it’s unfortunate because we cannot afford to fork out that much funding out of [American Rescue Plan Act funds],” he said.

When asked if the administration could have come to some sort of compromise on its contract with MSA, Palacios said the administration can’t incentive one airline without incentivizing the other, referring to what will become the CNMI’s sole interisland airline, Star Marianas Air.

“If we were going to do something, then we would have to talk to Star Marianas also because the fact of the matter is that it is within the regulations that we have to give equitable treatment to all companies wanting to serve our islands. Star Marianas has been doing it for a long time without a lot of incentives, so if we’re going to do that, we have to incentivize all the other companies,” Palacios said.

In its letter, MSA stated that even after all that has happened, they appreciate the hard work that many individuals in local government agencies provided to help guide them and get their planes in the air.

“From the very beginning of the MSA project, we found a fantastic group of employees that we could count on day after day, who always gave 100% and handled difficult situations with class and a positive attitude (some even knew how to moonwalk!),” the letter states.

MSA also thanked its customers for flying MSA in the short time they were in operation.

“Most of all, we would like to thank our customers. As we worked to start and expand our services, your patience, encouragement, and support helped motivate us every day. Though our plans have been cut short due to an unexpected turn of events, we hope that all of you will know how much we appreciate the opportunity to have served the people of the CNMI and Guam, as you chose to fly on a first-class aircraft piloted by the most experienced group of commuter aviators in the Western Pacific,” said MSA.

“Thank you also to Southern Airways Express, who without their experience and commitment to MSA and the CNMI, we wouldn’t have been able to operate. We wish all of our customers and stakeholders whom we have served or worked with during the past year, continued access to reliable, safe and affordable travel between our islands,” the airline added.

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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