This Friday, Guam residents have another option for inter-island travel between Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as Mariana’s Southern Airways recently announced that it will begin operations and open ticket sales.
Keith Stewart, the airline’s president, said operations will begin on August 12 with services between Saipan and Tinian, followed by services between Saipan and Rota on August 15.
Stewart said flights between Saipan and Guam would start on August 19.
“Our plan is here with the interisland airline launching this month, we will then go back and focus on the international side. We haven’t lost our focus, we’ve just temporarily refocused to make this airline stronger,” Stewart said.
As the airline upgrades, its goal is to offer hourly flights between Guam and Saipan.
“Every hour, really, especially in the morning and afternoon. Back to when I first started flying to Saipan because I lived in Guam for about eight years. I used to be able to take a day trip to CNMI and then go back to Guam the same day, and that’s almost impossible right now.”
Stewart said Marianas Southern Airways hopes to meet air travel needs with more convenience.
“I think there will definitely be positive impacts as we expand our fleet. Our intention is to have a plane there on Guam that will operate initial flights from Guam to the CNMI, with our plane basically departing in the morning and then sailing out of Saipan in the air criss-cross,” he said.
According to Stewart, offering more frequent flights to Saipan would create additional trade and help rebuild the economy.
“As we all know, without good, reliable air transport, there really is nothing that can be done on these islands other than taking inter-island boats, and that just becomes a reliable and consistent inter-island service not just for Guam, but for the US as well have great advantages CNMI,” he said.
Marianas Southern Airways is focusing on passenger service for now and has already sold out a number of flights.
While he would not comment on what other airlines charge for inter-island flights, Stewart said the cost of traveling on Mariana’s Southern Airways would be significantly lower than its competitors.
“We know we’re going to have the most competitive fares in the market, and those fares to and from Saipan are $39 to Tinian, $69 to Rota, and $99 to Guam, each way, so double it for the round trip,” he said.
The #1 question the airline has been asked is when service to Rota will open, Stewart said.
“We definitely want to do that and see a great opportunity for individuals to get a flight to Rota,” Stewart said.
With the soon-to-be-opened casino and military build-up, there has been a lot of interest from Guam residents wanting to fly to Rota, as well as Tinian, Stewart said.
“With any inter-island trip, most people will board their flights within days, weeks before they fly. Things are going as expected and we’ve had nothing but extreme enthusiasm from the community in terms of support,” Stewart said. “We will definitely see our flight schedules really grow and change over the next few months.”
Marianas Southern Airways expects the arrival of three new Tecnam P2012 aircraft in the coming months.
“All new Tecnam P2012 Traveler aircraft, known as the most advanced twin-engine turbocharged piston aircraft. The nine-seat aircraft has a generous baggage allowance to complement its sleek and modern interior design, which includes LED reading lights, air conditioning controls and ergonomic seats with USB connectivity , armrest and cup holder for each passenger,” explained Marianas Southern Airways in a press release.
In addition, the airline creates jobs in the region.
“We are proud to have offered employment to over 20 people in the Northern Mariana Islands and look forward to contributing to the NMI’s economic growth,” said MSA Vice President CNMI/Guam Bill Giles.
Here on Guam, Stewart said about five jobs will be created initially, “then things can expand from there and get bigger as we move forward.”
Mariana’s Southern Airways is the newest airline of the CNMI, a joint venture between Saipan’s MP Enterprises and Southern Airways Express, one of America’s largest regional carriers, the airline said.
“The main thing we’re trying to do is really want to work with the community and be committed to the community and really want to be a part of it. I think we have a really unique opportunity to do that now,” Stewart said. “Not only are we trying to do this, but we’re really trying to figure out how to meet the needs of the community and how we can grow this economy to hopefully do some really interesting and amazing things.”