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Saipan resident challenges United's pricing policy

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

Saipan (Marianas Variety)-- Saipan resident Jesse Torres wants to know why United Airlines is charging $580 for a roundtrip ticket between Saipan and Guam.

In an email to United, Torres said “it is cheaper to fly from Saipan to Korea on Jeju airlines for $300 roundtrip than it is to fly from Saipan to Guam. United more than doubled their prices from $240 roundtrip to $580 roundtrip. We are being overcharged big time due to lack of competition. There are times when flights from Guam to Manila are cheaper than Guam to Saipan. This is causing hardship on passengers and is killing commerce in our local economy which relies heavily on tourists.”

He said Saipan residents “have no other way to travel to Guam except with United airlines.” He also blames “Cabotage [for] prevent[ing] low cost carriers from servicing the route.”

Cabotage laws restrict foreign airlines from operating flights between two U.S. destinations.

In her reply to Torres, Nicole Margeaux of United Customer Care Management, said: “I’m sorry you're disappointed with our ticket prices. I understand your perspective and would like to share some insight on our pricing.

“We consider historical sales data, available inventory, local events and even our competitor's pricing to determine our own fares. These factors are monitored daily so we can remain competitive and make any adjustments if needed. Prices can fluctuate and are offered in real-time availability.”

She said United continues “to focus on areas of improvement, review our policies and adjust them as needed. We’re listening to our passengers now more than ever, and your feedback is heard and appreciated.”

In response, Torres said, “Your reasoning for overcharging passengers doesn’t make any sense.”

He said United “is taking advantage of cabotage laws and charging whatever it feels like for a 20-minute flight between Guam and Saipan. United is discouraging travelers from flying between the islands and this is not good for commerce because tourism is our number 1 industry. It’s time to reinstate the $240 roundtrip ticket prices United used to offer.”

“We will be meeting with the governors of the islands and the U.S. delegates to address this matter,” he added. “We will push for an oversight and hold hearings regarding United’s monopolistic pricing throughout Guam, Saipan and Micronesia.”

In a press conference two weeks ago, House Floor Leader Edwin Propst and Saipan Chamber of Commerce President Joe C. Guerrero said air fare cost was one of the regional issues that a recently formed working group discussed in a series of meetings that started on Feb. 23, 2024.

The working group consists of legislators, executive branch officials and business leaders from the CNMI and Guam.


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