Printing BS and free flying the propaganda

By Mabel Doge Luhan

Thank you, Bryan Manabat! I thoroughly enjoyed the science-fiction story you published in the Variety’s April 19th issue: “Hong Kong Airlines chairman to captain inaugural flight to Saipan.”

“HONG Kong Airlines Chairman Sun “Jeff” Jianfeng, who is also a licensed pilot, will be the captain of HKA’s inaugural flight to Saipan on April 29….  HKA, which made its inaugural flight to Saipan in 2016…”

Time travel! I love it! We can’t seem to get regular tourists, but maybe we’ll get time travelers. Considering how giddy the newspapers are about Mr. Sun piloting the plane, maybe their reporters have been celebrating 4-20 with Mary Warner!

By the way, the Saipan Tribune, the Marianas Variety, and Chris Concepcion all call Jianfeng Sun the “chairman” of Hong Kong Airlines. Actually, he’s the CEO, not the chairman, according to his LinkedIn profile. ( ) Oh, CEO or chairman, Hong Kong Airlines or Hong Kong Express, Variety/Tribune reporter or incurious mouthbreather — there’s practically no difference!

Both of our illustrious newspapers are also so busy drooling all over this guy that they get his name wrong: Jianfeng is his given name and Sun is his surname. But who are we to expect our newspapers knowing the name and job title of the subject of their front-page articles? It’s too much to ask the reporters to do a fifteen-second Google search to fact-check.

And the newspapers are all giddy about an airline executive taking a joyride with some three hundred people’s lives at risk. It shouldn’t be a surprise that neither the MVA nor the Saipan newspapers has any idea about job skills or professionalism. If they did, they’d be asking about whether it’s really a good idea for a part-time pilot to be responsible for the safety of a passenger aircraft. That kind of responsibility is far outside the experience of any CNMI reporter or tourism official, but being a pilot is a constant full-time job, and there’s no way Mr. Sun can be an effective CEO and also a safe airline pilot. I don’t doubt that he’s licensed and rated. But that’s a bare minimum — that’s like asking about your heart surgeon’s qualifications and being told, “Well, he attended medical school.” Gee, thanks. In the CNMI, these questions about qualifications and safety are always asked much too late.

Speaking of asking questions, Chris Concepcion is quoted as saying that the flight is sold out for the foreseeable future. Except Expedia is still offering tickets for sale for every one of those HKG-SPN flights. But again — fact-checking that statement would’ve required about ten seconds of work on the part of our “reporters.” Much too much effort.

Did either newspaper check to see if Saipan is listed as a destination on the Hong Kong Airlines website or app? Because it’s not. If you attempt to book a Saipan ticket from the Hong Kong Airlines website or app, it tells you they don’t fly there. I can sense this venture is going great!

Chris is eager to tell us that it’s not just Hong Kong tourists who will come, but tourists from all the other places where Hong Kong Airlines flies. Were these people somehow unable to reach Saipan previously? They could have taken Jeju or TWay or United all day long to get to Saipan — but for the most part, they didn’t. And now they’ll have the additional option of Hong Kong Airlines as their carrier of choice for not visiting Saipan.

Can Gloria Cavanagh explain her quote in the Tribune article? “[W]e just hope for much success to the tour agencies that are taking a big bulk of the risk.” How are tour agencies taking risk by Hong Kong Airlines flying these supposedly fully booked flights? Is there something we don’t know?

“Saipan is their first entry to the United States,” Chris Concepcion helpfully tells us. Actually, HKA previously flew to Los Angeles and San Francisco, but don’t let get that in the way of your propaganda piece.

At least Hong Kong Airlines knows where the real tourist market is: outbound tourism from Saipan, CNMI government paid. “We’ve arranged for Lt. Gov. David M. Apatang and MVA Deputy Managing Director Judy Torres to be on the inaugural flight,” Chris Concepcion told us. Well that’s one way to boost the load factors! “Arranged for” is like “supported,” and means paid for, right? So the taxpayers bought them two roundtrip tickets to Hong Kong, plus hotels and per-diems and lost work time… sa hafa? To party in honor of a private business? Partying certainly has a time and place, but do we really need to party it up and travel for pleasure at CNMI expense in this fiscal emergency?

And there are still the swirling questions about how long these flights will last, and whether there’s a subsidy or guarantee being paid to Hong Kong Airlines. And even more fundamentally, whether these flights are driven by real tourist demand, or by some kind of side payment from MVA to make itself look good.

A newspaper should be able to answer those questions for us. But instead, our newspapers are writing gems like: “As if it being the first flight back after a two-year hiatus wasn’t special enough, the return of Hong Kong Airlines to Saipan will be made extra special… HK Airlines’ return is just as special to the HK Airlines as it is to the CNMI with the company’s chairman himself…” (Saipan Tribune, April 19th) And so on and so on. I had the nurse bring me a tray of antiemetics before I even attempted to read those propaganda pieces, and I hope whoever wrote them had a steady supply of Eucerin.

Hitler’s birthday falls on a Saturday this year, so I’m not sure if the Variety will be open on Monday — but if they are, I eagerly anticipate their clarification of these matters! Maybe when not just CEOs, but also pigs fly.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.

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