Skymark Airlines Inc. has again extended the suspension of all flight operations between Japan and Saipan until Sept. 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
No surprise there, according to Commonwealth Ports Authority board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds, who said yesterday that this decision was to be expected given the circumstances.
Skymark announced over the weekend that the decision to extend the suspension of the Narita-Saipan flights was in response to decreased travel demand due to the global coronavirus outbreak.
Last April, Skymark announced that the suspension of the Narita-Saipan flights, that started last March 26, would be extended until May 31, 2020, in response to decreased travel demand due to the global coronavirus outbreak and the enforcement of quarantine measures by the CNMI and Japan governments.
King-Hinds said that airlines going back online depends on the duration and magnitude of the outbreak and containment measures and the degree of consumer confidence in air travel.
“Until such time that that the virus is contained, we should expect to see hesitation to resume services,” she said.
Due to the outbreak, Skymark’s last flights between Saipan and Japan were last March 25. The company’s original plan was that the suspension would only last until May 10, 2020.
The CNMI has set a July 15, 2020, target date to reopen the CNMI to tourists, and CPA is pulling together an action plan in preparation for this, including barring individuals dropping off passengers at the departure terminal from entering the terminal at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport effective last Thursday, unless those dropping off passengers are escorting unaccompanied minors or special need passengers.
CPA executive director Christopher S. Tenorio said taxi and shuttle operators may not wait for passengers outside the arrival exit point as they will designate areas for operators to pick up passengers.