NMI’s newest airline to take to the skies in July

Posted on May 23 2022


The CNMI’s newest airline will take to the skies in July. The as-yet-unnamed airline, a joint venture between Saipan’s MP Enterprises and America’s largest commuter airline, Southern Airways Express, is intended to “revolutionize” interisland travel within the CNMI, according to Keith Stewart, president of MP Enterprises.

“We will launch service with multiple aircraft based [on] Saipan and [in] Guam, and we are planning for a total of seven aircraft over the next three years to meet the growing demand,” said Stewart.

Services will commence in July. The company will announce the airline name, schedules, fares, and open ticket sales in the coming weeks once U.S. Department of Transportation’s approval of the local trade name has been received.

According to Stewart, the initial offering will include over 90 weekly flights serving Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam.

“Importantly, as the schedule expands the airline will offer same-day connectivity to Saipan with United’s Honolulu-Guam flight, avoiding an unnecessary overnight stay in Guam and, through Southern Airways’ interline agreement with United Airlines, providing the ability to make a seamless reservation from Tinian, Rota, or Saipan to anywhere in the United network,” said Stewart.

“We are delighted to have partnered with Southern Airways to establish the CNMI’s newest airline,” said Stewart. “As one of the largest regional airlines in America, Southern offers scale, experience, and a solid reputation, ensuring the long-term viability and stability of this important new inter-island service.”

Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern Airways, said, “Southern is very excited to partner with MP Enterprises. With our more than 240 peak-day departures across six time zones, we have worked very hard to establish ourselves as a respected presence in the airline community. Expanding our footprint to include the CNMI and Guam further cements Southern’s place among the world’s leading airlines.”

Little said that Southern is excited to partner with MP Enterprises because of its reputation, trust, and desire to make a positive impact upon the CNMI islands. “These attributes align with Southern’s core values and vision,” said Little.

According to Little, Southern completed over 99.3% of its more than 64,000 scheduled flights in 2021 and led all commuter airlines in on-time performance.

Southern Airways will act as the air service operator focusing on safety, flight and ground operations, ticketing, and maintenance. MP Enterprises will contribute market knowledge, media, governmental relations, route development, and community outreach to the joint company.

Local ownership ensures that decisions affecting the CNMI are made with local input and considerations, said both Stewart and Little.

The airline will operate brand-new twin-engine Tecnam P2012 Traveler aircraft. The Tecnam P2012 Traveler is known as the world’s most advanced twin-engine turbocharged piston aircraft. Manufacturing aircraft for more than 70 years, Tecnam has developed the P2012 Traveler to meet the challenges of daily scheduled airline operations. The nine-seat aircraft features generous luggage allowances to complement its sleek and modern interior design, which includes LED reading lights, overhead air conditioning controls, and ergonomic seats with a USB port, armrest, and cup holder for each passenger.

Stewart said the journey to establish a new air service began two years ago when MP Enterprises sought ways to reinvigorate the CNMI economy. The team looked to identify industries that would enable the CNMI to become sustainable and remain so when disasters or economic changes outside of its control occur.

The focus was to create local jobs and export markets targeting food and energy sectors first, said Stewart.

“What we quickly discovered was that without steady, affordable, and guaranteed air transportation, (which has not existed in the CNMI since the days of Air Micronesia) local businesses cannot grow and prosper,” said Stewart. The team identified the need to have an international passenger and cargo airline that MP Enterprises is currently working to develop.

Stewart said “the goal was to also meet the needs of interisland travel following a recommendation from Gov. [Ralph DLG] Torres that airlines explore the possibility of interisland solutions that would help lower the cost of flights between Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam. Since COVID delayed the development of an international airline, MP Enterprises shifted its focus to recruiting a partner for inter-island service.”

Torres has long advocated for increased interisland air service opportunities to support economic growth and resiliency throughout the Commonwealth. This policy objective of the administration is outlined in the Marianas Visitors Authority’s 2030 Strategic Plan, along with plans and recommendations published by the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers in pursuit of a multi- island destination objective.

“It has been through the support of this administration and the clear policy objectives to see greater levels of service provided to Tinian and Rota that this is possible,” said Stewart. “The plans and work done to increase interisland service has played a substantial role and we are excited to be a part of making the CNMI an even greater multi-island community for its residents and visitors alike.” (PR)

Press Release
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