Additional airlines to resume flights to Saipan despite 4th wave of infections

Additional airlines to resume flights to Saipan despite 4th wave of infections

An Asiana Airlines plane is seen through a window at Terminal 1 of Incheon International Airport on July 14. Yonhap

Travel bubble agreement with Saipan to begin Saturday

By Jun Ji-hye

Domestic air carriers will resume flights to Saipan as scheduled, despite a recent spike in COVID-19 infections here.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said Friday that a quarantine-free travel bubble agreement with Saipan will also be implemented, Saturday.

According to the ministry, Asiana Airlines will resume flights to Saipan on Saturday, while T’way Air will resume flights there on July 29. Jeju Air already resumed flights there on June 8.

The term “travel bubble” refers to a partnership between two or more cities or countries with similar rates of COVID-19 infections to allow quarantine-free air travel in both directions.

The Korean government signed a travel bubble agreement with Saipan on June 30 to allow group tours for fully vaccinated people.

“Preparatory proceedings have been wrapped up today (Friday), thus six travel bubble tourists who have been fully vaccinated will board an Asiana Airlines plane departing on Saturday,” a ministry official said.

The travel bubble agreement has raised expectations among the ailing aviation and tourism industries, which have been hit hard by the prolonged pandemic, for a recovery in demand for overseas travel.

In line with the government’s plan to implement the agreement, air carriers and travel agencies have moved quickly to prepare flights and travel packages.

But it would take more time for the travel bubble to revitalize tourism in the area as the selection of accommodations for Korean tourists, one of the most important preparatory proceedings for implementing the agreement, was decided only a day before its implementation.

“We received a notice this morning that two hotels in Saipan were selected as accommodation for travel bubble tourists,” the official said. “From here on, travel agencies will need more time to prepare travel packages and attract tourists.”

In addition, some critics said the ongoing wave of infections could slow down demand for overseas travel as people’s travel decisions are significantly affected by psychological factors.

They added Korea’s sluggish vaccination rates and difficulties with its vaccine reservation system could adversely affect the situation.

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