Star Marianas says it’s ready to improve mail delivery

USPS has 18 months left in contract with United Airlines

With United Airlines said to be responsible for over 14,000 lbs of Saipan-bound mail delayed in Guam, another airline continues its talk with the U.S Postal Services regarding their interest in assisting and improving the delivery of mail in the CNMI.

“We’re trying to talk to the U.S Postal Services for several years now,” Star Marianas Air president Shaun Christian told Saipan Tribune.

However, Star Marianas wasn’t aware or notified when the bidding process for mail carrier was started and was eventually awarded to United Airlines just last year.

“We were never notified of any previous bids apparently were out sometime last year,” Christian said.

Christian said they have sought USPS on how they can be notified once there is a bidding process out for carrying mail in the CNMI.

“We’re trying to find out where these bids or requests for bids are published,” Christian said.

He added that they are listed in the government supplier award management system, and have access to the Federal Business Opportunities website but they weren’t able to see any bids come up.

“Maybe we’re not looking in the right place? I don’t know,” Christian said.

Saipan Tribune learned that United has 18 months left in their contract with USPS and that it will only look into securing future services once the existing contract is finished.

According to Christian, they were advised by USPS to communicate with United Airlines with regards to subcontracting.

However, Star Marianas was concerned about 14 CFR 298.35 or the “limitations on carriage of mail” which states “an air taxi operator or commuter air carrier is not authorized to carry mail except pursuant to contract with the U.S. Postal Service.”

“When we got the message from the Post Office, we became a little bit concerned because they’re telling us to contact United,” Christian said, “With the airlines of our size and air taxi operators, it seems to contradict what the Post Office is saying because the law seems to say that there has to be a direct contract with the Postal Service.”

On a similar note, Star Marianas noted that United has been subcontracting the carriage of mail to air taxi operators as they have observed Szabo Aerospace, LLC aircraft delivering mail to Tinian and Business Air/AirNow as well as Arctic Circle Air, LLC aircraft delivering mail to Saipan.

“We’re trying to find out from the post office how they’re able to do that without a direct contract, or maybe they have a direct contract, we don’t know for sure, but there does seem to be confusion in the way USPS is directing us,” Christian said.

“We’re willing, able, and have the capability to assist with the mail process. We just need to understand what is it that we need to do and we’re a little bit confused based upon the instructions to go to the United as to how that complies to federal regulations,” he added.

Christian said they have the fleet and would have the authority to do it based on their operations specifications with the Federal Aviation Authority. They now also have a base of operations on Guam and operate daily scheduled flights to the island.

He added that Star Marianas “certainly can” deliver mail daily to all three islands of the CNMI— as opposed to only the current two deliveries per week on Tinian on Tuesdays and Fridays.

“Whatever we can do to improve on that,” Christian said, noting that they too are consumers of the postal service.
“We would love to be able to assist in improving this delivery,” he added.

14,000 lbs in delayed mail

Last Sunday, concerned resident Dr. Philip Dauterman aired his distress to the media regarding delivery delays of several packages.

He said he has been contacting both Guam and Saipan post offices with regards to packages “scanned in Guam in late February, then seemingly disappeared.”

“Per phone call to Juan at the C.K. Saipan office, United Airlines has 14,000 lbs of Saipan-bound mail delayed at the Guam airport and unable to send to Saipan in a timely manner. This affects the entire CNMI with delayed inbound mail,” Dauterman said.

Saipan Tribune sent an email to United Airlines Sunday afternoon but was unable to receive comments as of press time.

Just last month, the U.S Department of Justice started an investigation on whether top airlines are complying with contracts to carry mail cargo for the USPS. Civil investigative demand was sent out to United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., and American Airlines Group Inc. about the USPS mail they carry.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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