Torres to HK Express: Repatriate stranded travelers ASAP

Failure to do so may result in revocation of HKE’s future charter flights

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres wrote the mother company of Hong Kong Express Airways yesterday to express grave concern over the plight of 130 travelers who have been left stranded in the CNMI after HK Express suspended flights to and from the CNMI last Feb. 6 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in China.

Torres strongly urged Hong Kong-based Nicolas Wong, airport and cargo services general manager of Hong Kong Express Airways Ltd., to contact his office within 24 hours to respond to the CNMI’s pressing concerns about the stranded travelers.

The governor said if Hong Kong Express fails to contact his office with immediate plans to repatriate these 130 stranded individuals by the evening today, Friday, he will have no choice but to contact the office of the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China regarding this critical matter.

Although the Commonwealth understands the urgency and need for the suspension of these flights, Torres said that HKE “hastily and without notice” left the travelers stranded in the CNMI with no options for their return.

Torres said the Commonwealth Ports Authority has made it clear that HKE’s failure to arrange for the return of the stranded passengers may result in the revocation of future charter flight services and/or the imposition of additional conditions of continued service by the airline into the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.

The governor said he supports and reiterates CPA’s request that HKE maintain communication with the affected travelers regarding plans for their return and ensure that they are provided with food, shelter, and other related welfare necessities while repatriation arrangements are being made.

Torres also supported CPA’s request for HKE to arrange for the immediate return of these stranded passengers back to their initial departure destination.

He said the distressed individuals remain in contact with CPA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office on Saipan as they seek information and assistance regarding their status in the CNMI and their desire for repatriation.

“HKE has yet to provide CPA, CBP, or the stranded travelers with any correspondences regarding the matter,” the governor said.

The administration and CPA did not say where these stranded travelers are currently staying on Saipan.

Torres said CPA had also sent a letter of notice to HKE via POI Aviation concerning the situation, in which they have asked HKE to immediately remedy the situation.

Press secretary Kevin Bautista said that Torres has been working closely with CPA, the Marianas Visitors Authority, and CBP over the last few days to address this issue and to take care of these travelers.

While safeguarding public health remains a top priority for the administration, Bautista said this does not mean that innocent travelers should be abandoned.

“They must be given the opportunity to return home safely, and we will assist in making sure that happens,” he said.

The press secretary added that the Marianas remains a safe and coronavirus-free destination and that the government will continue to promote the beautiful islands to Korea, Japan, and the rest of the world.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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