S. Korea airline suspends flights

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The steady rise in the number of COVID-19 infections, particularly from the omicron variant, has resulted in South Korean airlines deciding to temporarily halt air service to Saipan.

According to several South Korean media outlets, South Korean airlines servicing the Saipan route have either suspended flights or have reduced their service.

One of those airlines cites T’way Air as having decided to suspend its two flights a week schedule until Jan. 28.

Meanwhile, Jeju air has also decided to cease its Busan-Saipan route come Jan. 12 despite having just recently resumed the service.

In a brief statement, Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Priscilla Iakopo said. Air Busan and Air Seoul, two South Korea-based airlines that have also shown an interest in servicing the Saipan route, have gone quiet as they monitor travel trends as a result of the growing omicron variant.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, the success of the CNMI’s Tourism Resumption Investment Plan had prodded Air Seoul and Air Busan to express an interest in flying to Saipan. However, since proposing to launch around December back in October of 2021, there has been no word from both airlines whether they will push forward with adding Saipan to their scheduled routes.

Lately, about 27% of TRIP bookings have either canceled or postponed their trip to the CNMI. That is roughly over 2,000 cancellations based on the projected number of TRIP participants MVA reported back in October. Most cancellations cited worries about the increasing number of omicron cases in Korea.

Back in October, MVA had expected to serve roughly 7,794 TRIP participants through the end of the 2021 via the South Korean travel bubble program. However, MVA deputy managing director Judy Torres said that, as of December, the CNMI had only served roughly a total of 4,834 TRIP participants from October to Dec. 16.

According to Torres’ breakdown of the 4,834 TRIP participants, the CNMI had a total of 1,983 participants in October, 2,121 in November, and 730 TRIP participants from Dec. 1 to 16.

Kimberly B. Esmores | 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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