Star Marianas suspends all flights

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Stranded passengers crowd the commuter terminal at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport after being caught flat-footed by Star Marianas’ decision to suspend commercial operations starting yesterday due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the CNMI. (YOGI SINGH)

Star Marianas Air Inc. suspended all its interisland flights starting yesterday.

According to the Star Marianas’ website, due to the risks presented by an “unhealthy flight environment,” Star Marianas Air is immediately suspending all commercial operations until further notice.

“Our Reservations is currently working with customers who have existing bookings for refunds and cancellations,” the website stated.

Saipan Tribune learned that a handful of individuals who were expecting to hop on the next flight back to Tinian, Rota, or Saipan were stranded because of the immediate suspension of flights.

Star Marianas addressed the issue and has organized charter flights for today, Dec. 2, for those who need to return home.

“We understand with the sudden suspension of flights there are several residents of Rota and Saipan that need to return to their home islands. We are in the process of organizing charter flights for Thursday between Rota and Saipan to help return people to their home islands until a determination can be made as to if/when commercial service may resume,” Star Marianas states.

For those who want to get on one of these charter flights, contact Star Marianas’ reservation department at 670-433-9996/9997/9998 for more information.

Saipan Tribune reached out to Star Marianas president Shaun Christian yesterday but he had yet to respond as of press time.

This comes on the heels of news that positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified on Tinian. In a statement from Kimberlyn King-Hinds, Commonwealth Ports Authority chairwoman, who is a former Tinian resident, it was only a matter of time before the COVID-19 virus reached Tinian. The best thing the community can do now is to accept and adapt to life with COVID-19, which includes practicing the 3 W’s and getting vaccinated.

“People are regularly conducting business, doing work-related training, and traveling in and out of Tinian for various reasons. With the increase of infection rates on Saipan, it was a matter of when, not if, for someone to be infected with COVID-19. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially when so many of us have let our guards down with practicing the 3W’s. I’m guilty of that. We are a tight-knit community and when you hear this news, it’s not some random stranger, it’s our family member or our friend and so people are going to be scared and worried. It’s a normal reaction. With that said, we have to adjust our thinking and start accepting the fact that COVID-19 is not going to go away and the government can only do so much. We have to do our part and that is making sure we are vaccinated and we practice the 3 W’s,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This article was update on Dec. 3, 2021, to clarify the Star Marianas statement on its website that cited an “unhealthy flight environment” as the reason for the flight suspension. It appears that the company’s decision is connected to a dispute with CPA, not the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the CNMI.

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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