Washington D.C. – Congressman Greg ‘Kilili’ Sablan says a United Airlines official told him Friday it’s working to resolve Cape Air’s service disruptions between the CNMI and Guam as quickly as possible.
Sablan says a United corporate official he met with in Washington D.C. says United has sent a mechanic to Guam to repair Cape Air’s disabled ATR-44 and get it back in service, as quickly as it can, but the official did not give Sablan a date.
A second Cape Air plane is undergoing scheduled maintenance in the states.
Meantime, Sablan says United has stepped in, with its own 737s, operating the Guam-Rota-Saipan route at a loss, while frustrating travelers with reduced service.
Sablan: “Not only does United have to pull its aircraft out of rotation, they have to reschedule their crews. They want to get this fixed, as quickly as they can. I was just in Saipan. I know the cancellations. Hey, there’s times when I want to fly united, but because of the unreliability of the Guam-Saipan or Saipan-Guam route, I fly Delta.”
Sablan has met three-times with United in the last three-years, and each time United says the route is a money-loser. So Sablan’s reluctant to press the carrier too hard, for fear of also losing service to Rota, which he doesn’t feel is fair to another CNMI destination.
Sablan: “There are people who want, who have come to me and have asked me to find an airline that would fly Saipan-Guam. And, while we can do that, that would be leaving Rota entirely off the map. So that you won’t be able to book a flight on-line to get to Rota. So, by fixing one problem, we’re creating another one.”
So, Sablan says he’ll continue to work with united to get Cape Air’s aircraft fixed and back in the air, as soon as possible. Asked about the service disruption’s impact on the 6% or so of Japanese tourists who access Saipan via Guam, Sablan had this:
Sablan: “I don’t know how accurate that is, because I do know that I fly on Delta, from Tokyo, and that’s where I see, the airplane is mostly Japanese tourists.”
And Sablan points out, United plans to “discontinue” three unprofitable routes from J apan, this fall.
The FAA did not return calls for comment Friday. But Sablan says the CNMI is not eligible for essential air service subsidies to support air service, since it already has commercial service. But he says that would change, if United and Cape Air pull out of the CNMI, altogether.