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United to open Japan-Saipan flights

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan/Pacific Island Times

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Saipan-- United Airlines will offer direct flight services between Saipan and Narita beginning in September, the office of the CNMI governor announced today.

“This is a great step in revitalizing our historic Japan market, which has always been a priority of my administration," Gov. Ralph Torres said.

"Since the pandemic started, we have been working to both bring back and diversify our main tourism markets. We are excited to see these direct flights between Saipan and Japan, which is something we have not had since the beginning of the pandemic,” he added,

With the return to normalcy and resumption of tourism, Torres said the CNMI will have the opportunity to rebuild the commonwealth islands as a choice destination for Japanese visitors while the CNMI develops other markets at the same time.

“United Airlines is proud to be the carrier of choice to provide this new direct service between Saipan and Tokyo/Narita, Japan," said Sam Shinohara, managing director of airport operations for Asia Pacific at United.

“In addition to providing inbound travel for tourists, the new Saipan-Tokyo/Narita direct service will provide residents of the CNMI with more convenient connections to Asia and major cities in the U.S.," he added.

The CNMI received 37 visitors from Japan in May, according to the Marianas Visitors Bureau or MVA.

The tourism office said it is finalizing a contract to provide airline incentives for direct flights from Tokyo-Narita to resume this summer, three times a week. The MVA reopened its Japan representative office in April to resume marketing the destination.


Last week, the MVA reported that arrivals to the CNMI grew 1,386 percent to 6,939 visitors in May 2022, compared to 467 visitors received in May 2021.

The figure is an overall decrease of 82 percent from 38,262 visitors received in May 2019, but is also the highest monthly arrivals to the CNMI since the pandemic. There were no international flights in May 2021, compared to 42 international flights operated in May 2022, another sign of incremental tourism recovery, the MVA said.

“May was another step in the right direction toward recovery of the Marianas tourism economy, and we anticipate the high travel period in the summer will remain strong,” said Priscilla M. Iakopo, MVA managing director. “With competing destinations now open, it is critical to ensure the MVA has an adequate budget in the new fiscal year to continue our forward momentum on reviving tourism, our primary economic driver in the islands.”

Fueled by flights operated by five airlines arriving from Seoul and Busan, a majority of visitors in May came from South Korea, the CNMI's largest source market. The CNMI received 5,303 visitors from South Korea, compared to only two visitors in May 2021.

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