With the COVID pandemic leading to a surprisingly high number of airline startups, we explore a small startup in the Pacific – Marianas Pacific. The airline, yet to launch, will be based in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands and primarily serve tourists looking for a sun-soaked getaway. The carrier, which has already announced flights from South Korea, also hopes to create a link between Australia.
Introducing Marianas Pacific
Marianas Pacific is a proposed new carrier that will serve the Northern Marianas Islands. The airline has been in the works for the past year, with Saipan’s governor Ralph Torres also onboard with proposals to establish a new airline in the region. The carrier hopes to establish Saipan as a popular tourist destination on a par with Bali.
The chairman of Marianas Pacific is Neil Hansford, an Australian aviation professional with over 40 years in the industry as a consultant and freight specialist. Hansford has been working on establishing Marianas Pacific over the past year, with a particular focus on linking Saipan with the lucrative Australian market.
The airline will initially operate direct flights between Saipan and South Korea. It is hoped a travel bubble can be established between Saipan and Australia in the coming weeks, with Brisbane targeted as the most likely destination. According to reports, Marianas Pacific will operate a small fleet of Boeing 757s.
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Making Saipan the ‘next Bali’
Chairman of Marianas Pacific, Neil Hansford, has earmarked Saipan as a vacation destination full of promise. With popular getaways like Bali still unreachable due to the pandemic, Hansford believes Saipan offers the perfect alternative.
Hansford told The Australian,
“No Australian health authority is going to allow travel to Bali any time soon, same with the Philippines. Australians are going to want to go somewhere that’s Covid-safe and Saipan ticks all the boxes.”
Saipan is slowly moving towards opening up to international travelers. With almost 80% of its adult population now vaccinated, the island is gearing up to welcome new travelers, particularly Australians. According to the Saipan Tribune, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) as a whole has reached the 70% mark for vaccination.
“It’s the same distance (from Brisbane) as Bali, it has the same quality of hotels, the same sort of resorts, better diving, English is the main language and they’re in the same time zone as us.”
Bali was all set to open up to international tourism in July this year before the Delta variant took hold of the island. Bali reported 1365 new cases last Friday and has vaccinated (at least one jab) around 70% of its population. On the other hand, Saipan has had notable successes in its management of the COVID pandemic, with no new cases reported since May.
Have you ever visited Saipan? Do you think it is on par with Bali? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.