Aussie aviation veteran to launch airline for US territory that could be the next Bali

Pristine blue waters of the Micro Beach and the far-off Managaha Island backdrops a perfectly manicured garden with pond in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands.

An Australian aviation veteran is looking to establish a new airline for a tropical island just north of Guam that has aspirations of becoming the next Bali.

Though you may not have heard of it, Saipan is the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific, and it’s kicking some major goals when it comes to vaccination.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) has vaccinated 70 per cent of its population, just 10 per cent shy of herd immunity, according to the Saipan Tribune.

Neil Hansford, who has a background in airline freight services and aviation consulting, told The Australian that Saipan would be an obvious choice for COVID-safe travel.

For the past year, Hansford has been busy setting up an airline called Marianas Pacific to fly to COVID-safe destinations, including Australia.

“No Australian health authority is going to allow travel to Bali any time soon, same with the Philippines. Australians are going to want to go somewhere that’s COVID-safe, and Saipan ticks all the boxes,” he said.

“It’s the same distance (from Brisbane) as Bali, it has the same quality of hotels, the same sort of resorts, better diving, English is the main language, and they’re in the same time zone as us.”

Hansford told The Australian that the island, which is a US territory, is ideal for Aussie travellers, with a low crime rate, no “beggars” and similar food to Australia.

Plus, both marijuana and same-sex marriage are legal, which sounds like a party to us.

“They don’t drink Australian wine yet – we’d like to change that. There’s American wine and beer and plenty of nightlife but it’s a family place, not a cesspit,” he said, adding that hotel rates were on par with Bali.

With the backing of the island’s governor, Ralph Torres, the airline will initially fly Boeing 757s between Saipan and South Korea, with hopes to operate from Brisbane once a travel bubble can be established.

Featured image source: iStock/zorazhuang

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