Colonia-- United Airlines’ decision to suspend flights between Yap and Palau as of Jan. 7, has left a gaping hole in regional transportation, which now may be addressed.
Thursday afternoon, a delegation from FSM and Yap took off from Yap International Airport in the Harbin Y-12 airplane that was donated to Caroline Islands Air by China. CIA is the FSM government-subsidized airline. The group was headed to Palau to meet with their counterparts to review and sign an agreement for the small aircraft to take over the route.
(Photo: Joyce McClure)
The delegation included (left to right): Vincent Figir, former Governor, Yap; Bruno Tharngan ,Chairman of the Council of Pilung , Yap; Peter M. Christian, President of FSM; Tony Ganngiyan, Governor of Yap; Joses Gallen, Secretary, FSM Department of Justice; Lukner Weilbacher, Secretary, FSM Department of Transportation, Communication & Infrastructure; and Alex Tretnoff, CEO, Caroline Islands Air and recently certified pilot for the Harbin Y-12.
If approved by both parties, the flights will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. The proposal sets forth a schedule of two flights per week between Yap and Palau on Tuesdays and Fridays with a return flight early the following morning. According to Tretnoff, if the flight is overbooked, the 17-seat plane will return to pick up the remaining passengers.
A one-way ticket from Yap to Palau costs $200, Tretnoff said.
The final schedule is still being worked out and will depend on discussions between CIA and the other airlines serving Palau. It is CIA’s intent, Tretnoff said, to ensure the most convenient connections to the other airlines that serve Manila, Guam and other linked locations. But as the smaller airline, CIA must match their schedule to the other airlines’ departures and arrivals. Working out the schedule will take time but it will be established with the best interests of the passengers in mind.
CIA has been given an office next to the main terminal at Yap International Airport and blueprints for a hangar have been finalized. Qualified pilots are being interviewed for two open positions. When hired, they will be certified by Tretnoff.
Tretnoff also said that FSM is continuing to explore other options for servicing the route including obtaining a larger plane for CIA that will have greater capacity. Air Nauru and Air Niugini, both of which fly within FSM, and other commercial airlines are also being looked into to possibly take over the route in the future.
In addition to passengers, there are many businesses that rely on the route to transport goods between the two countries as well as on to Manila. Tretnoff said CIA intends to provide extra flights, if needed, to ensure that those needs are met. With tourism businesses, government employees, commercial enterprises, children attending school in Palau, Filipinos and other non-American foreigners who live and work in Yap and families left high and dry by United when it abruptly announced the suspension of service between Yap and Palau, he gave assurances that CIA and the FSM and Yap State governments are committed to insuring that the route is maintained for the benefit of all. Confirmation of the terms of the final agreement will be forthcoming when it is signed by all parties.