The Commonwealth Ports Authority board has suspended all new international flights into the CNMI for 60 days.
That will give the CNMI government enough time to assess the islands’ infrastructure and capacity to accommodate the rapid increase in visitor arrivals.
In a special meeting of the CPA board yesterday, members adopted Resolution 2017-03 that imposes the 60-day moratorium.
The resolution was in response to a request by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres for the board to implement the 60-day suspension (“or until further notice”) for new flights into the CNMI, according to board member Barrie Toves.
Torres’ letters to CPA were dated June 7 and 8, 2017. The June 8 letter also furnishes a copy to the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“Asking the CPA’s help is the [Torres] administration’s way of addressing the issue of inadequate number of hotels and lodging for tourists. …If this continues without study or assessment, our hotels and lodges would not be able to accommodate the influx of tourists,” Toves added.
Currently, there are 12 to 14 airlines servicing the CNMI.
Toves said that existing flights cannot be tailored to fly in specific schedules because the airlines are also servicing clients who have connecting flights.
The CPA has the authority to implement the moratorium because the flights coming into CNMI are within its jurisdiction but the resolution also recognizes the authority of the U.S. DOT.
CPA chair Jose R. Lifoifoi said, “We know we do not have the power to stop the airlines because of what happened in American Samoa governor versus Hawaiian Airlines where the governor signed an executive order banning Hawaiian airlines service out of Samoa because of its monopoly. The U.S. DOT ruled American Samoa governor cannot regulate airline services because it violates the Airline Deregulation Act.”
“That is why the resolution is imposed unless otherwise prohibited by the U.S. DOT,” Lifoifoi added.
The CPA management’s next step is to file a formal notice of the action to the U.S. DOT. It will also send a request to the U.S. DOT Secretary and FAA to expedite the review of the CPA’s formal notice and inform them of their decision.
The current international flights servicing the CNMI shall remain in status quo and the resolution has no impact on any new flights within the CNMI.