Delta to pull out of NMI

DELTA Air Lines will terminate its Narita-Saipan and Japan-Palau flights on May 6, corporate communications officer Hiroko Okada said. “These reductions are due to unsustainable pressure, including lower demand, in the Micronesia market,” she added.

But “Delta is committed to the Japan market and continues to focus on strengthening the airline’s network to the U.S. gateways and beyond.”

Okada said Delta will continue to operate flights from Japan to the U.S. and Asia.

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Chris Concepcion said Delta’s decision is very unfortunate news for the CNMI.

“We understand that this is purely a business decision made by Delta headquarters in Atlanta. They’ve decided to take the B757 used on the Saipan-Narita route back to the U.S. mainland where they will use it on other routes within their wider network,” Concepcion said in a statement.

“Fortunately for the CNMI, there are airlines that have expressed an interest in taking over the route and MVA is aggressively working towards a launch soon.   MVA and Delta have been working closely over the past few years to make this route profitable, and we managed to do so in the past couple of years. But after all is said and done, we recognize that the Japan market itself is shrinking dramatically in our region and worldwide. We saw it with Delta’s pullout on Guam, with United’s nearly 50 percent reduction in flights between Japan and Guam, and now with Delta’s flight suspension for Saipan and Palau,” he added.

“We are saddened because Delta and its predecessor Northwest Airlines have been serving the CNMI for 29 years. But we are also hopeful for a brighter future with the shift in market dynamics happening today. The [low-cost carrier] revolution is spreading like wildfire around the world, and going forward we foresee this trend picking up quickly in the Marianas and Micronesia given Japan is essentially a short haul, three-hour flight from the CNMI. We extend our gratitude to Delta for their service to the CNMI. We know that if there is an opportunity for them to return in the future, they will do so, since our ties remain strong. We call on our partners at [the Commonwealth Ports Authority, the Commonwealth Development Authority] and other agencies to work with us to ensure our flights remain profitable to operate in the CNMI.   MVA cannot do this alone. It is critical that we work together going forward.”

In a separate statement, Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres said:

“Last November, Chris and I met with Delta Air Lines Japan executives in Tokyo and were assured that the Narita-Saipan route would be maintained. However, this business decision was made by the Delta headquarters in Atlanta as part of their U.S. mainland route expansion.

“While we are genuinely disappointed about this decision, I remain committed to the Japan market and the historical and cultural ties between the Marianas and Japan. We will be meeting with Delta Air Lines next week to reiterate our partnership, but we will keep our options regarding the route open. We are very grateful to Delta for their 29 years of service to the CNMI and its partnership over the decades.

“It is our collective goal to remain on top of the shifting markets here in the Pacific, and that includes making sure that visitors from Japan can continue to visit our islands, and our people continue to have viable air transportation through the Narita route, which is a historical one for many of our friends and families. I will continue to work with MVA, CPA, our leaders, and our community to achieve this shared goal.”

(With Junhan B. Todino)

Source: Marianas Variety :

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