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Guam, CNMI delegates propose cabotage exemption for both territories



 By Pacific Island Times News Staff


 

Guam Del. James Moylan is proposing a special cabotage exemption for foreign carriers seeking to fly from Guam to another U.S. port.

 

He said H.R. 8786, coauthored by CNMI Del. Gregorio Sablan, is intended to lower airfare costs and allow for competition for certain routes, which in turn should lead to more competitive pricing to benefit the consumers. 

 

Under current federal law, a foreign carrier can't transport passengers or cargo

 from one U.S. port to another. Presently, United Airlines is the only domestic carrier that provides routes between Guam and the CNMI, as well as Guam and Hawaii. 

 

If H.R 8786 were to become law, a foreign carrier could provide services

between  Guam and the CNMI, Guam and Hawaii, or even consider a route between Guam and one of the contiguous states.

 

"This is an issue which has been building, and with all additional concerns being raised recently, from United's pet policy to and from Guam, and the ending of the native bird repatriation program, along with $500 airfare costs between Guam and Saipan, something needs to be done," Moylan said.

 

"This is going to be a massive undertaking, but we are ready. Just as the unions protect the domestic ships industry, we will face solid challenges from  many entities, particularly from the incumbent carrier. This is also an issue that will be a marathon and not a sprint. In other words, it needs to build some momentum and will take time. We have and will continue to build an education campaign on why H.R. 8786 is so important for the Marianas," he added.

 

Based on research of the average costs of domestic travel, leaving from the Guam International Airport to any airport across the nation is considered the most expensive route. 

 

During Quality-of-Life panel discussions, which are part of the House Armed Services Committee and seek ways to improve the quality of life for servicemembers living away from home, the top concern for those residing in Guam is the cost of airfare.

 

"Servicemembers, along with island residents, face challenges trying to attend weddings, funerals, or graduations in the mainland. The same goes with former residents wanting to fly back. Competition is the only way we will get the costs to reduce, and that is the intent of this legislation,”  Moylan said.

 

"I also want to emphasize that this measure is in no way a testament to the efforts of United Airlines Guam management, staff and flight crew. They continue to go above and beyond by being a community partner while providing exemplary service both in flight and on the ground, and I thank them for their hard work. This issue is about decisions made on a corporate level in Chicago," he added.

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