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China airline offers reduced tickets to Japan
Publication Date : 17-10-2012
Diaoyu Islands dispute leads to shrinking flights
Unlike other Chinese airlines that are slashing flights to Japan amid escalating tensions between the two countries over islands dispute, Shanghai-based Spring Airlines decided to offer reduced tickets for flights between Shanghai and the Japanese prefectures of Saga and Kagawa.
Saga relies heavily on Chinese tourists to boost the local economy, but the rocky relationship between Japan and China has led to a sharp decrease in the number of passengers on the airline's Japanese flights.
Saga's local government said at a recent news conference that travellers between Shanghai and Saga can board the flights with confidence.
The prefecture's government decided to jointly support the initiative with the airline, which is offering up to 50 reduced tickets for each flight between Shanghai and Saga starting on Monday. Each flight can carry 180 passengers.
The tickets will cost 1 yen (US 1 cent) if bought in Japan.
The campaign by China's only budget airline will last until December 20, with a total of 12 flights per week operated by the airline between Shanghai and the two Japanese prefectures.
The tickets from Shanghai to Saga or Kagawa will cost 560 yuan ($90), and from Saga or Kagawa to Shanghai will cost 470 yuan, after airport fees and fuel surcharges.
The reduced tickets were launched at 2pm on Monday, and 263 promotional tickets had been reserved as of midnight yesterday. Those figures are in stark contrast with the about 50 per cent seat-occupancy rate seen before the promotional activity, said Zhang Wu'an, a spokesman for the carrier.
Kagawa prefecture is also jointly supporting the initiative with the airline, Zhang said, adding that there are no plans to launch similar promotions in the near future.
Flights to Japan cut
Major Chinese airlines have been reducing their flights to Japan due to the shrinking number of passengers as tensions between the two countries threaten bilateral economic ties.
China Southern Airlines, which has an 11 per cent market share of the China-Japan civil aviation market, will stop its four weekly flights from Beijing to Toyama from October 28, Kyodo News reported today.
Peng Jun, head of the airline's public relations department, did not confirm that the flights from Beijing to Toyama will be stopped, but said that there will be changes to the route when a new schedule is introduced.
Peng said that any decision to stop the flights would be "purely business related".
Airlines usually have different flight schedules for summer and winter, and the changes are announced by the end of October.
"The reduction of flights on China-Japan routes may be announced along with the changes at the end of this month, but shrinking market demand will be the only reason," said a China Southern Airlines employee, who wished to remain anonymous.
Traffic capacity released from the Japanese market will be moved to other markets, the airline said.
In late September, the airline released a list of 10 routes between China and Japan, which would be adjusted in September and October, including the Beijing-Toyama route.
Media reports said that China Eastern Airlines recently stopped its flights from Shanghai to Fukushima, and that its business outlets in Fukushima will also be closed by the end of October.
However, China Eastern told China Daily that the carrier stopped flights between Shanghai and Fukushima after last year's massive earthquake and that its outlets have been closed since then.
China Eastern - the main carrier operating China-Japan routes - postponed its new route between Shanghai and Sendai, which it had planned to open on October 18, due to lacklustre demand.
Tens of thousands of Chinese people have cancelled trips to Japan amid rising anger over Japan's illegal "purchase" of China's Diaoyu Islands the Diaoyu Islands (known in Japan as Senkaku), which has impacted the airlines operating on these routes.
Japan Airlines said that around 19,500 booked seats had been cancelled on routes between China and Japan by October 4, and its main rival All Nippon Airways had 43,000 cancellations by October 1.
In order to keep ticket prices at current levels and improve the load factor, the airlines recently stopped some flights on the routes.
"The cancellation of flights is an active way for airlines to avert business risks," said Li Xiaojin, a professor at the China Aviation University in Tianjin.
Chinese airlines can also move their traffic capacity from Japanese routes to other routes with growing demand, such as South Korea and the domestic market, he said.
For Japanese airlines, the adverse effect of Chinese passengers' reduced demand is even worse, as it will be difficult for them to find another market as robust as China, Li said.