XTRA Airways (XP, Miami Int'l) is on course to launch flights from the Northern Mariana Islands to China on September 20, after winning approval for early slots at Saipan airport. The Guam Daily Post reports that the approval came after discussions with the Commonwealth Ports Authority (CPA), which manages the airport, and US Customs and Border Protection.

As previously reported, XTRA Airways' plans suffered a setback when they discovered they had lost landing slots between 0400L and 0500L. The CPA had been concerned that too many passengers would be arriving at the same time, leading to delays.

But Executive Director of the Marianas Visitors Authority, Chris Concepcion, told the Saipan Tribune that that was unacceptable.

"The fact that there are not enough CBP employees to handle additional visitors is a federal issue and we hope that they are able to beef up manpower in the CNMI to accommodate our growing tourism industry," Concepcion said.

With that roadblock out of the way, XTRA can now move ahead with its planned launch.

The Florida-based carrier is approved for a 3x weekly service between Saipan and Nanjing, and a 2x weekly service between Saipan and Shenzhen. Once the Chinese routes are established, XTRA Airways will then look at connecting Saipan to Guam Int'l.

XTRA Airways operates seven B737-400s (one of which is in service for the United States Marshals Service) and a total of three B737-800s.