Nearly 60% of 130 stranded tourists return home

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The Commonwealth Ports Authority reports that nearly 60% of the 130 stranded tourists have returned home and those who remain are set to return home soon.

According to CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds, nearly 80 of Hong Kong Express Airway’s passengers who were left behind have departed Saipan as of yesterday.

King-Hinds said CPA expects that all of the remaining stranded passengers will be returning home in the next week or so.

The action to repatriate the 130 stranded tourists was taken following the joint effort of CPA and the CNMI government to reach out to Hong Kong Express Airways last week.

Last week, CPA took it into its own hands to reach out to Hong Kong Express even though the issue was out of CPA’s jurisdiction. CPA also took it upon itself to contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to inform them of the issue regarding the stranded tourists who would have been overstaying and could do nothing about it.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres also wrote the mother company of Hong Kong Express Airways last week to express grave concern for the travelers who were left stranded in the CNMI after Hong Kong Express suspended flights to and from the CNMI.

Torres stated in his letter that if Hong Kong Express fails to contact his office with immediate plans to repatriate these stranded individuals by last Friday, he will have no choice but to contact the office of the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China regarding this critical matter.

Hong Kong Express was the only airline that reportedly left behind tourists following flight suspension on Feb. 6 as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Other airlines that suspended flights due to the novel coronavirus outbreak were China Eastern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Beijing Capital Airlines.

Sichuan Airlines suspended all flights to the CNMI from Feb. 1 until further notice but provided “ferry-in” and “live-out” service, which means the airline arrived in the CNMI with no passengers and left with travelers.

China Eastern also cancelled all flights from last Feb. 1 until further notice due to the virus.
Beijing Capital Airlines cancelled all flights beginning Jan. 31 until the end of February.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista 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 kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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