The Marianas Visitors Authority and Guam Visitors Bureau are working together to maintain reliable connectivity between Guam and the Marianas and have been in separate talks with United Airlines and Cape Air about the Rota-Guam and Rota-Saipan flights. In particular, talks are focusing on the possibility of adding flights for the Saipan-Guam routes after May 31, when United cuts off the services of Cape Air United Express.
United Airlines’ decision to stop using the services of Cape Air was announced early this month, It will still service the Saipan-Guam route daily using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft that can seat over 150 passengers. However, they will discontinue Rota-Guam and Rota-Saipan flights.
According to MVA managing director Chris Concepcion, they have been in contact with GVB to discuss the situation with United’s announcement of terminating their contract with Cape Air and revive jet service between Saipan and Guam.
“We are grateful that United Airlines is returning jet service to the Saipan and Guam route, which traditionally has been served by a jet for many, many years by Continental Micronesia…it’s going to be a challenge because their aircraft allotment is limited but we are grateful for the service that United provides in the CNMI as they’ve been a long-time partner of ours for over 50 years,” he said.
“Our concern is about the island of Rota. …We are in discussion with Cape Air and United separately to see what we can do to take care of the situation because of the struggles that we predict Rota will encounter,” he added.
GVB president and CEO Nathan Denight said that their focus is to look for opportunities for reliable flight connections in the Marianas.
“United’s decision to bring in a 737-800 jet aircraft between Guam and Saipan means its customers will fly on a bigger, more comfortable plane with reliable service, which they have been asking for. There will also be some economic benefits, as travelers will have to overnight in Guam and the CNMI during their stay,” he said.
“While some challenges will be created with no direct flight between Guam and Rota, GVB will continue to work with United and the Marianas Visitors Authority on more opportunities for reliable connectivity and regional initiatives in the Marianas,” he added.
While Saipan welcomes the jet service between Saipan and Guam, Concepcion cannot help but see the repercussions of having only one flight that will service the route on a daily basis.
“Our concern is two-fold. The first, the once-a-day flight from Saipan to Guam will create a challenge to our local people who are traveling to Guam for a day, say for business, and they would have to spend the night there to get the next flight home; and two, the schedule does not allow passengers to connect from Japan or the U.S. and vice versa, which is a challenge for the tourism industry because our target is to bring in Japanese customers via United’s hub [in] Guam,” he said.
“Our customers from Japan are not able to connect so that is a big concern of ours. We are in discussion with United to see what other options are available to either change the schedule or add a separate flights or add a segment between here and Japan direct,” he added.
Concepcion said that aside from GVB, they are working to arrive at possibilities and solutions with the Commonwealth Ports Authority, Guam International Airport, and Port Authority of Guam.
“It is definitely a concerted effort. Gov. Ralp DLG Torres and Gov. Eddie Calvo of Guam have asked us to work together and we do have daily follow ups with everybody. We involved our Japan team because this is going to affect their marketing,” he added.