Still no takers for air carrier service incentive program

But Toves says interested US flag airline to visit CNMI

The Commonwealth Ports Authority board’s airport facilities committee chair Barrie C. Toves is frustrated that despite CPA’s adoption last year of an air carrier incentive program, which aims to attract new airlines to the CNMI, there is still no takers.

In an interview during CPA board’s meeting last Friday, Toves said they adopted the air carrier incentive program allowing new airlines to come and avail of 75-percent discount of the airport tariffs during the first year of operation and 50-percent discount during the second year.

Toves said he was disappointed when CPA’s comptroller informed the airport facilities committee last Thursday that there is still no takers with the air carrier incentive program.

Toves, however, is very optimistic that a new airline will avail of the program as he hinted that there is an inter-est from the U.S. mainland.

The five-year air carrier incentive program, which was adopted by the CPA board in September 2018, aims to promote competition, attract new airlines, and increase scheduled direct passenger service to unserved and under-served destinations.

The program is available from Sept. 1, 2018 through Aug. 31, 2023 to all airlines that meet the program re-quirements.

According to CPA, each eligible air carrier is limited to a one- or two-year incentive period. It has three categories which an airline can quality: new service to unserved destinations, new entrant carrier, and added flights to specific destinations.

Toves said a U.S. flag airline is expected to come in two weeks because they have requested information about CNMI’s airport facilities in their interest to operate between Saipan, Rota, and Guam.

“They want to see the facilities, the terminal and the runway and want to meet the CPA management,” he said.

Toves said Senate President Victor Hocog (R-Rota) is responsible for giving them information about this inter-ested airline.

He did not divulge the airline, citing that they are still in negotiations.

“We hope that they take the bait and avail of the air carrier incentive program,” Toves said.

He said the interested airline want to see the facilities and then from there develop their program, but the initial plan is to fly Saipan, Rota, and Guam.

“I am very much in support of that endeavor,” Toves said, adding that his concern is to have the airline contribute to enhancing and improving the interisland service.

He said if the business proposal is to operate a helicopter service or skydiving or any activities that do not con-tribute to interisland service, he is hesitant to support it.

“I am sure everyone understands why because I am trying to address the issue of the interisland,” he said.

Toves said interisland service has been a long-standing issue that is very huge challenge for Rota.

“Since we lost Cape Air, since we lost Freedom Air, we are in the red now. That’s the reason I’m very frustrated,” he said.

Toves said CPA’s focus should get new airlines to come in.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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