United makes jet flight

The United Airlines’ B737-800 jet service prepares for its Saipan-Guam flight. (Kimberly A. Bautista)

United Airlines flew in its first direct fight from Guam last Friday, June 1—a once-a-day jet service operated directly by United Airlines and not by its usual code-share partner, Cape Air Services.

Saipan Tribune was given the opportunity to witness the first flight between Saipan and Guam via United Airlines since the stoppage of Cape Air flights last Thursday.

At 8:30am on Friday morning, the arrival terminal of the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan’s International Airport was abuzz as hundreds of individuals aboard the United Airlines jet piled out of their flight and into Saipan.

According to an airport employee, in his many years of working at the airport, he could not remember the last time he has seen so many individuals on one flight when Cape Air was still providing services to Saipan.

Saipan resident Hanzel Batan, who has travelled to Guam several times via Cape Air and was on the first United flight to Saipan last Friday, said the biggest difference she enjoyed was the amount of space she had aboard the United aircraft. Cape Air used to use an ATR 42 plane, a twin-turboprop plane usually used for short-haul flights. The Saipan-Rota flight usually takes a little over an hour.

Compared to Cape Air, Batan said seating was far more comfortable this time but, due to the amount of people, it took quite longer than she expected to board, exit the aircraft, and retrieve her luggage.

When asked if she, overall, enjoyed her flight on United Airlines compared to Cape Air, she said she’d have to go on a few more trips before she could come up with a verdict.

It was also reported by multiple airport employees that the flight from Guam to Saipan has not been able to arrive on time for the past two days, thus delaying the departure of the flight from Saipan to Guam.

It is expected that United Airlines will improve punctuality as the airline is still getting accustomed to its new route.

According to a previous article on the Saipan Tribune, United Airlines flights between Saipan from Guam will use a Boeing 737-800 jet aircraft, which has a capacity of 16 seats in United Business, 42 seats in United Economy Plus, and 108 seats in United Economy.

United Airlines currently offers one flight from Guam to Saipan and from Saipan to Guam daily. The new Saipan-Guam routes depart from Guam at 7am and arrive on Saipan at 7:45am and depart from Saipan at 8:45am and arrive in Guam at 9:30am.

A previous statement from Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Chris Concepcion states that if there is a possibility for more frequent flights between Saipan and Guam via United Airlines, MVA would work on securing it.

“If there are opportunities to increase frequency to more than one daily flight, we are eager to work with them [United Airlines] on that. The future of the airline industry looks bright for the CNMI as we see new players emerging on the scene now,” said Concepcion.

Kimberly Bautista Bautista
Kimberly Bautista is the youngest in the stable of Saipan Tribune reporters. She has covered a wide range of beats, including the community, housing, crime, and education, for the Saipan Tribune.

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