SUSUPE Saipan — Air Saipan has obtained commitment from two Saipan hotels to provide for 50% occupancy of the airline’s two 230-seat aircraft. Dave Raybould vice president for Asia and the Pacific told the Journal that this agreement should begin once the airline starts its operations in March. (See the story “Future flights; Air Saipan plans Asia charter launch” in the Dec. 12 2005 edition of the Journal.)

“On different routes a minimum of 50% of the seats are pre-sold ” Raybould said. “We’re not starting from zero. We’re starting at 50% seat occupancy. Our break-even point is already achieved ” he added.

Raybould said the hotels would commit to covering 50% of the airline’s seats provided it flies a designated route. He however declined to disclose which of Saipan’s 10 major hotels have agreed to the arrangement. Negotiations started six months before Japan Airline’s scheduled suspension of its NMI flights last October it was learned.

Raybould said it would take Air Saipan 12 to 18 months to have enough customers and become profitable. “It can’t happen overnight ” he said. Raybould said Air Saipan’s maiden flight will be in March “We’re definitely flying in March.”

According to Raybould there is no confirmed date yet for the flight but he said this would either be from Japan or Taiwan.

Raybould said Air Saipan has leased two Boeing 757-200Ers from the Chicago-based Ryan International Airlines through brokering by London-based Charter Connections. He said the aircraft are scheduled to arrive on Saipan by the third week of February.

Raybould said Air Saipan applied for landing rights with the Commonwealth Ports Authority the week of Jan. 9 and are expecting the permit to be issued soon. “CPA is the most positive group of people we have met ” Raybould said.

Groundhandling services will be provided by POI Aviation a Tan Holdings company. Air Saipan will hold offices at Saipan Grand Hotel also a Tan Holdings company. Raybould along with partners Dean Mills chairman of New Era Group (BVI) Co. Ltd. which organized Air Saipan; and Craig Champion vice president for sales and development with Air Saipan are also set up at Saipan Grand Hotel.

Raybould said applications for landing rights have also been submitted to airport authorities in Japan Taiwan China and Australia. Raybould citing information he received from Mills said Air Saipan invested $7 million into the project. He said the airline has tapped a flight attendants’ school in Beijing for a five-year plan involving three-month training periods for Northern Mariana Islands residents. He said the company are looking at issuing full scholarships for five residents for each three-month training period. MBJ