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CPA: Steep drop in number of flights to NMI

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DUE to the global Covid-19 outbreak, the number of flights arriving at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport has “tremendously decreased,” Commonwealth Ports Authority Executive Director Chris Tenorio said in his report to the CPA board on Tuesday.

He said the airport’s current schedule consists only of “direct flights to Guam, South Korea, and Japan.”

He also informed the board that CPA is in the process of purchasing a thermal body scanner.

He told Variety in an interview on Wednesday, that the equipment is from Canada and is worth around $35,000.

In his report to the board, Tenorio said as part of CPA’s protective measures, it continues to work with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. in implementing screening measures at the airport. He said CHCC personnel are present during flight operations.

He stressed in his report that the Covid-19 outbreak “has had a negative effect on the global economy,” and a “direct negative financial impact” on CPA.

He said according to recent news articles, South Korea has raised its threat level, which allows its government to lock down cities in an effort to contain the outbreak if needed. “This again has presented more uncertainties for CPA as South Korea is our biggest market,” Tenorio said.

In a separate interview, CPA board member Pete P. Reyes said he commends CPA chairwoman Kimberlyn King-Hinds for letting the public know about CPA’s purchase of a thermal body scanner.

“It is necessary so that we can better protect ourselves from the Covid-19 threat — we will do anything to keep the CNMI and its people safe,” he added.

More flight cancellations

CPA Deputy Director Edward B. Mendiola said there will be additional flight cancellations effective Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020.

As of Monday, the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport winter flight schedule showed that the daily flights to Incheon Airport in South Korea was cancelled until March 18.

Flights that are still suspended until further notice include those to China via China Eastern Airlines as well as via Sichuan Airlines. In addition, beginning March 2, 2020, there will be no daily flights to Incheon Airport via T’Way Air.

Mendiola said Jeju Airlines will reduce its daily flight service to Gimhae International Airport in Busan, South Korea to just four flights a week. He noted that all of these cancellations are “due to the very low load factors.”

Based on statistics, the current load factors of the airlines that serve Saipan are as follows:

• Asiana Airlines at 51%

• Jeju Air at 66%

• United Airlines at 65%

• Hong Kong Express at 29%

• T’Way Air at 60%

• Skymark Airlines at 75%

In a meeting on Wednesday with members of the House Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications, Mendiola noted that Skymark, which flies direct from Narita, Japan, has been steady with its load factor, with a little over 3,000 passengers since the beginning of February.

He added, however, that many people are hesitant to fly because of the global Covid-19 outbreak.

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