Kansai Travel Agencies Spooked By JAL Rehab Plan

OSAKA (Nikkei)–Travel agencies in the Kansai region of western Japan are not at all happy about the rehabilitation plans for Japan Airlines Corp., as the envisaged reductions of JAL flights from the area would play havoc with the overseas package tours they plan to offer.

The airline’s plan as of September was to end or suspend service for nine international and five domestic routes from Kansai International Airport near Osaka, as well as end services from Kobe Airport.

However, a draft rehabilitation plan announced Tuesday by the task force under Transport Minister Seiji Maehara calls for JAL to also reduce flights bound for resort destinations.

The announcement came as a shock to tour organizers that plan to launch package tours in spring and beyond.

For international routes, travel agencies would take a greater hit from the reduction of JAL flights to Southeast Asia than they would from fewer flights to South Korea and China.

The airline plans to stop direct flights from Kansai International to Singapore by the end of fiscal 2009. Currently, Singapore Airlines and JAL each offer one direct flight a day from Kansai International to Singapore. When JAL ends such flights, the number of seats available for the route would be halved, which could force travel agencies to arrange chartered flights or use indirect routes for their tours. Indirect routes are not only less convenient, they also tend to be more expensive than direct flights.

Furthermore, there are concerns in the industry that the disappearance of a competitor on certain routes could cause the remaining airline to increase ticket prices.

Another route JAL plans to pull up stakes on is the one linking Kansai International and Denpasar on the Indonesian island of Bali, a move that would happen by the end of fiscal 2011.

The carrier has been flying to Denpasar from the Kansai airport almost daily throughout the year, while Garuda Indonesia offers three flights a week between the destinations.

Package tours to Bali are relatively inexpensive and one of the more popular products. However, fewer flights may cause travel agencies to lose opportunities to organize package tours during the summer-vacation and other high seasons.

Another blow to travel agencies would be the planned abolition of JAL flights from Kansai International to Hanoi — flights with which the Japanese carrier has a code-sharing arrangement with Vietnam Airlines.

The airline’s planned withdrawal from Kobe Airport is also a cause of concern among travel companies. Around half of the morning flights out of the city are operated by JAL, which services Tokyo, Sapporo and Okinawa.According to Sanyo Air Service Co., a Kobe-based travel agency, the loss of morning flights would be painful for travel agencies, because such flights enable them to arrange tours that help travelers make the most of the day.

— Translated from an article by Nikkei Staff Writer Yoshie Jingu

(The Nikkei Marketing Journal Oct. 16 edition)

%d bloggers like this: