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CNMI, United seek to iron out creases in regional travel


Photo by Pacific Island Times

By Pacific Island Times News Staff


Saipan— CNMI Gov. Arnold Palacios has engaged United Airlines’ regional and corporate executives in a series of meetings to discuss air service challenges in the region such as costly airfares and inconvenient policies affecting local travelers.


“United Airlines is an important domestic airline partner, and my administration aims to build a stronger relationship with them to ensure that our residents have access to affordable and efficient air service options,” Palacios said after meeting with Sam Shinohara, Asia/Pacific managing director, and Dan Weiss, global government and regulatory affairs managing director. 


“United’s willingness to work with us to improve air transportation in the region is a testament to their long-term investment in the Marianas, and their commitment to deliver quality service to our communities,” the governor said.


Palacios said he is working with the Commonwealth Ports Authority to roll back airport fees that have increased by as much as 90 percent over the years, making airline operations in the CNMI much more costly and difficult.


The CPA board voted last week to lower the excessive fees.      


According to a press release from the governor’s office, United has agreed to consider adjusting flight schedules to make connections easier for CNMI travelers transiting through Guam.


Currently, an overnight stay on Guam is required for all transiting CNMI residents traveling to or from Honolulu, as connecting flights are scheduled for the following day.


“The governor thanked United for continuing its Saipan - Tokyo Narita route and adjusting flight times to make it easier for customers to connect between Saipan and the U.S. mainland via Tokyo, Narita,” the governor’s office said.


In line with the CNMI’s goal to tap the military market, United informed the governor that discounted rates similar to “resident fares” are also available to military service members based in the region.   


United provided the governor’s office with a tutorial on how residents can use United’s mobile app and website to access resident fares. The governor’s office in turn provided United with recommendations identifying areas where this process can be further streamlined.


The CNMI and United are both seeking expanded air services through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service Program.


This federal program helps small communities maintain a basic level of scheduled air service and provides subsidies for airfare to make travel more affordable. A legislative change to EAS statutory requirements is necessary for the CNMI and any of the U.S. territories to be eligible to participate in EAS.  

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