United flight attends to picket over concerns with working conditions

AIRPORT: The A.B. Won Pat International Airport is seen July 31, in Tiyan. Employees of United Airlines will be picketing in front of the facility Tuesday afternoon to educate the public about concerns its flight attendants' union feel are causing delays and cancelling flights. Post file photo

This Friday, Guam residents will have another option for interisland travel between Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as Marianas Southern Airways recently announced it will begin operations and open ticket sales.

Keith Stewart, the airline's president, said operations will launch Aug. 12 with flight offerings between Saipan and Tinian, followed Aug. 15 by flights between Saipan and Rota.

Stewart said flights between Saipan and Guam would launch Aug. 19.

"Our plan is here with the launch of the interisland airline this month, we will then go back and focus on the international side. We have not lost our focus, we just refocused temporarily to stand up this airline," Stewart said.

As the airline gears up, its goal is to have hourly flights between Guam and Saipan.

"Really every hour, especially in the morning and afternoon. Getting back to when I first started flying to Saipan because I was a resident in Guam for about eight years. Used to be able to go on a day trip to the CNMI and then go back to Guam same day and that's near impossible to do right now."

Stewart said Marianas Southern Airways hopes to fill the need in air transportation by adding convenience.

"I think that there's definitely going to be positive impacts as we grow our fleet. Our intention is to have an aircraft there on Guam that will run first flights from Guam to the CNMI, basically having our aircraft on Saipan leaving in the morning and then crisscrossing in the air," he said.

According to Stewart, offering frequent flights to Saipan would create additional commerce and help to rebuild the economy.

"As we all know, these islands, without good reliable air transportation, really nothing can happen other than taking boats between the islands and, so just having reliable and constant service between the islands will only have great benefits not just to Guam but also the CNMI," he said.

For now, Marianas Southern Airways is focused on passenger service and already has sold out a number of flights.

While he wouldn't comment about what other airlines charge for interisland flights, Stewart did share that the cost to travel on Marianas Southern Airways would be significantly less than what competitors charge.

"We know that we will have the most competitive fares on the market and those fares to and from Saipan are $39 to Tinian, to Rota $69, and to Guam $99, and that's for each way, so double it for round trip," he said.

The No. 1 question the airline has been asked is when flight service to Rota will open, Stewart said.

"We definitely want to do that and see a great opportunity there for individuals there to have a flight to Rota," Stewart said.

There has been a lot of interest from Guam residents who want to catch flights to Rota, as well as Tinian, Stewart said, as a result of the casino which will be opening soon and the military buildup.

"With any interisland travel, most people will make their flights within days, weeks before they end up flying. Things are going as expected and we've only had extreme enthusiasm from the community in terms of support," Stewart said. "We will definitely see over the next few months our flight plans really growing and changing."

Marianas Southern Airways is expecting the arrival of three new Tecnam P2012 aircraft in the coming months.

"All new Tecnam P2012 Traveller aircraft, known as the most advanced twin-engine turbocharged piston aircraft. The nine-seat aircraft features generous luggage allowances to complement its sleek and modern interior design, which includes LED reading lights, overhead air-conditioning controls and ergonomic seats with a USB port, armrest, and cup holder for each passenger," Marianas Southern Airways stated in a press release.

In addition to this, the airline said, it is creating jobs in the region.

“We are proud to have offered employment to over 20 people within the Northern Mariana Islands and look forward to contributing to the NMI’s economic growth” MSA Vice President CNMI/Guam Bill Giles said.

Here on Guam, Stewart said roughly five jobs will be created to start, "then, as we keep going things can expand and get larger from there."

Marianas Southern Airways is the CNMI’s newest airline, a joint venture between Saipan’s MP Enterprises and Southern Airways Express, one of America’s largest regional airlines, the airline said.

"The main thing that we are trying to do is we really want to partner with the community and have commitment to the community and really become a part of it. I think we have a really unique opportunity right now to do so," Stewart said. "We are not looking to just only do this, but we are really looking at finding how we can meet the needs of the community and how can we grow this economy to do some really interesting and amazing things, hopefully."


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