Skymark Airlines Inc.’s last flights between Saipan and Japan will be today, Wednesday, temporarily closing the CNMI’s door to international flights.
Commonwealth Ports Authority board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds said there were only two passengers in Skymark’s inbound flight yesterday.
This will leave only United Airlines doing flights between Saipan and Guam and only in the morning four days a week, King-Hinds said.
Separately, Skymark International Flight Operation Office manager John Furuya said yesterday that, due to coronavirus outbreak situation, they are temporarily suspending the Saipan-Narita, Narita-Saipan operation starting tomorrow, Thursday, and until May 10, 2020.
King-Hinds said that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, CPA, the Commonwealth Health Care Corp., and the Marianas Visitors Authority have had this conversation since mid-January as they tracked what was happening in China.
“It was difficult at that time for everyone to wrap our minds around what we anticipated to be an inevitable economic shutdown to keep the community safe,” she said.
King-Hinds said they knew they had to do it and they sought the authority to shut down the borders but that, time and time again, they were told that they didn’t have the authority.
On the other hand, she said, they had to juggle the need to close with many in the tourism industry begging them to prolong the inevitable because they too have obligations and that is to keep people employed.
King-Hinds said that CPA is grateful for the cooperation and collaborative efforts of the industry partners who stepped up to the plate to implement health screening measures at the border to help detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“But even with that, the science and the data are telling us that the best way to beat this is by staying home and I’m glad that the whole world is waking up to the fact that we all need to stay home and stop traveling for everyone’s sake,” King-Hinds added.
She said she’s sad about Skymark as everyone, most especially the governor, worked to hard to open up that air bridge between Japan and the CNMI. That was not easy, she said, which makes this situation more heartbreaking.
“Unfortunately, these are things beyond anyone’s control and not specific to just the CNMI. We have to be all in this together. We all have stay strong and step up to the plate for one another,” she said.