Less than 12 months after its launch, Marianas Southern Airways (Saipan) is ending operations on April 1, 2023. The cessation of services follows the Northern Marianas Islands government terminating a USD8 million sole-source contract with the airline earlier this year.

Marianas Southern Airways broke the news on its social media accounts on March 30. The airline, a joint venture between Southern Airways Express (9X, Memphis International) and Saipan-based MP Enterprises, used a trio of Southern Airways Express-supplied Tecnam P2012s to link Rota International, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam International.

The controversial axing of the federally funded contract followed a change of government in the Northern Marianas Islands. The airline then indicated it might end services if a resolution could not be found. Speaking to a Northern Marianas Commonwealth Senate hearing on March 16, a Marianas Southern representative said "there was a complete neglect of response from anyone (in government)" regarding the cancelled contract and its consequences. "We're open, we're willing to talk, lets at least have a dialogue."

Southern Airways Express has issued its own statement regarding the demise of Marianas Southern. They confirm that they are withdrawing as the operating airline from Marianas Southern Airways. "The decision is based on the unwillingness of Gov. Arnold Palacios to honour the contract signed by the previous administration," the statement says.

“We understand how vitally important inter-island air service is to people living in island communities. That’s why we felt compelled to be part of a sustainable solution for the people of the CNMI,” said Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern Airways Express. “Unfortunately, since the new Governor’s announcement, ticket sales have plummeted to the level where service in the Marianas is no longer feasible. This could have been worked out, but the Governor just wasn’t interested in talking to us. I’ll never understand the lack of effort to salvage this investment.”

Little says Marianas Southern employees based in the Northern Marianas or Guam will be kept on and offered relocation packages or the option of staying on the islands and working from home, staffing the round the clock customer call centre. ch-aviation has contacted Governor Palacios' office for comment.

Southern Airways Express told ch-aviation that the Marianas Southern Tecnams will now be used in Hawaii as reserve aircraft to support the Cessna (single turboprop) 208 Grand Caravan fleet in their subsidiary there, Mokulele Airlines (MHO, Kona). The aircraft will also be available for private charter.