Total of 11 Saipan-Rota flights per week
Star Marianas Air Inc. has decided to add two more flights per week between Saipan and Rota since last Tuesday due to an increase in demand throughout August.
In response to Saipan Tribune’s inquiry, Star Marianas Air president Shaun Christian said yesterday that with the addition of two more flights per week, this brings to a total of 11 flights per week between Saipan and Rota.
“We will continue to monitor advance bookings and do our best to provide the most optical level of service possible,” Christian said.
The Star Marianas Air president can’t say for certain as to why the volume has been increasing.
He said overall, demand is down substantially in comparison to last year which is to be expected given the current COVID-19 situation.
“It would seem that CNMI’s quarantine protocols requiring all passengers to enter the CNMI through Saipan is containing the spread of COVID-19 and people are becoming more comfortable traveling inter-island,” Christian said.
He said there have been several different government organizations, including the 2020 CNMI Census, that have been busy recently on both Tinian and Rota.
Christian said they have also seen an increase in the number of Saipan residents visiting Rota and Tinian for the first time for short local “staycations.”
Last April, at the request of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and the mayors of Tinian and Rota, Star Marianas temporarily suspended all scheduled inter-island passenger service to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Since resuming scheduled passenger flights to Rota last June, Christian said they have been working to match the amount of service offered to the demand for flights.
He said Star Marianas, like all airlines around the world, has had to make substantial changes to the way they operate in order to control costs and ensure they are as efficient as possible while still meeting the needs of the communities they serve.
“Initially when we resumed limited scheduled operations to Rota in June we started by offering a total of 4 flights per week between Saipan and Rota,” the president said.
In response to improving load factors, Star Marianas increased the total scheduled flights between Saipan and Rota to nine flights per week in late June.
Sen. Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota) said yesterday that Star Marianas added flights after an increase in volume of passengers traveling inter island between Saipan/Rota and Rota/Saipan.
“With the additional flights, it may accommodate the demand of passenger service to and from the islands,” Santos said.
However, the senator said it’s very important that passengers adhere to social distancing, wearing of masks, and using hand sanitizers for the safety and protection of health of the traveling public.
As to the reasons for the high demand, Santos said she believes it’s mostly due to an influx of inter-island travelers from Saipan to Rota and vice versa.
In addition, she said, it may have attributed to an increase of inter-island medical patients referrals after the suspension of Star Marianas inter-island flights last March.
Santos said patients’ referrals had to be rescheduled as a result.