Sichuan Airlines resumed international flights to the CNMI and arrived at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport early yesterday morning, carrying 255 passengers from Guangzhou, China.
The Sichuan Airlines flight came in at 3:10am and the tourists were greeted at the airport with a welcome banner by Marianas Visitors Authority staff, who also handed out shell leis.
“It was great seeing the second batch of tourists coming in early this morning,” said MVA marketing manager Thomas Kim, who was among the MVA staff who welcomed the visitors.
Kim said the CNMI is definitely back on track to meeting the expected numbers of arrivals for the months of December and onwards.
Jeju Air was scheduled to arrive yesterday afternoon from Incheon, Seoul, South Korea.
China Eastern Airlines will resume flights today, Wednesday, from Beijing, China. Beijing Capital Airlines will arrive tomorrow afternoon, Thursday, from Hangzhou, China.
Hong Kong Airlines will resume flights tomorrow, Thursday midnight, from Hong Kong. Sichuan Airlines will also arrive early tomorrow morning from Shanghai, China.
HK Express was the first commercial airline to resume international flights to the CNMI after Super Typhoon Yutu’s destruction on Saipan and Tinian last Oct. 24 and 25. The airline arrived on Saipan last Friday with a full load of 180 passengers.
Commonwealth Ports Authority board committee for airport operations chair Barrie C. Toves said yesterday that they are happy that the Saipan airport has already resumed nighttime operations.
That airline companies are resuming international flights is good news, Toves said.
“We’re expecting next year in March something that is [going to] help the economy,” said Toves, without elaborating. Right now, he said, CPA is just trying to repair all the damage and get back to normal operations.
“I’m [happy] that we worked this fast. We were not expecting that the airport to be ready at this time,” Toves said.
He said CPA obtained a broad spectrum of support from the Executive Branch, the Office of the Governor, and federal agencies to get the airport back to normal.
“I really extend my appreciation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security, and the governor’s leadership in getting the resources that we needed to do our recovery efforts,” Toves said.
Citing that the commuter terminal building at the Saipan airport is still in disarray because of Yutu’s fury, Toves said there’s still a lot of work to do.
“That’s my biggest concern, coming from the island of Rota,” said Toves, adding that they will soon have an airport facilities meeting. He said that CPA executive director Christopher S. Tenorio will brief the CPA board on the status of recovery efforts.