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CPA asks feds not to apply China flight ban to NMI

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THE Commonwealth Ports Authority has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation not to include the CNMI in the flight ban imposed on Chinese airlines, saying it has a “potential devastating impact” on the local economy.

In her letter to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao on Friday, CPA Board of Directors Chairwoman Kimberlyn King-Hinds also requested a “standing prior approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation for charter service by China carriers to the CNMI.”

King-Hinds said the cessation of Chinese and Hong Kong air service “will significantly decrease CPA revenues and put CPA at risk of violating its federal obligations under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act and its obligations under CPA’s Airport Revenue Bond Indenture.”

King-Hinds added, “I cannot over emphasize the fact that the resumption of flights is critical to the economic sustainability of both CPA and the CNMI.”

On Wednesday, DOT said, “responding to the failure of the government of the People’s Republic of China to permit U.S. carriers to exercise the full extent of their bilateral right to conduct scheduled passenger air service to and from China,” issued a Notification and Order Disapproving Schedules suspending the scheduled passenger operations of all Chinese carriers to and from the U.S.

But the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the Trump administration “eased off plans to block passenger flights by mainland Chinese airlines to the U.S…after China said it would permit some passenger flights by U.S. airlines.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the DOT on Friday “revised its original order, due to take effect June 16, and said it would allow a total of two round-trip flights a week by Chinese airlines. But the DOT said China’s restrictions still impaired the rights of U.S. carriers to operate flights under an agreement that governs air travel between the two countries.”

The report added that “while the order eases the threatened passenger flight ban, it will still cut in half the number of flights that Chinese carriers currently operate. Chinese carriers are permitted to operate a total of four weekly passenger flights to the U.S. under the limits Chinese aviation authorities set in March in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.”

Asked for comment, King-Hinds on Sunday said, “We can assume that we are included [in the latest order] given that the CNMI is considered a U.S. jurisdiction.  However, it’s best if we actually see the [latest] order and see what it means for us.”

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