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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Local governments trying to keep their JAL routes alive

Local governments were scrambling to keep their Japan Airlines (JAL) routes after Yomiuri Online released the list of international and domestic routes that are on the chopping board. Japanese and overseas local government are working with JAL and are hoping to save their routes from the cut. Meanwhile other airlines are eager taking over JAL's route :(

eTurboNews reports that Hawaii officials from Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), Hawaii County and the Big Island Visitors Bureau flew to Tokyo to meet with JAL executives. They are trying to save the daily Narita-Kona flight, which was launched back in 1996. Losing this direct flight will be a blow to Kona's tourism and the local officials are trying hard to encourage JAL to keep this flight. According to Mayor Billy Kenoi,

“JAL is contributing to the economic well-being of our entire island community, from our hotel workers and tour drivers to our small shops and restaurants, and we will all be working cooperatively to find ways to encourage JAL to continue direct flights to Kona.”

I would say there are still hope for JAL keeping this route. According to Diamond Online's data, NRT-KOA has a yield of 9.6%, which just misses the 10% cut-off! I hope the officials are flying on JAL from KOA to meet with the JAL executives! That's the least they could do :P

On the domestic side, there are reports of different local governments trying to save their routes. The latest ones are Aomori and Yamagata. Government official from Aomori visited JAL Tokyo office and met with JAL's Corporate Planning Division Manager for 15 minutes. They explained how important it is for their local economy, tourism and even to their prefecture to keep the routes. Once again, I hope they are flying on a JAL plane to the meeting :P Yamagata's official is hoping JAL will downsize the aircraft on their routes to improve profitability instead but the decision is still unknown.

IMHO, unless there are concrete plans to make the route profitable in a short time, JAL should not keep these routes. It may sound cruel but flying to all these unprofitable routes just to support the regional airport is one of the major reasons of JAL's failure. Yes, it hurts the local economy but if JAL fails, it will hurt Japan as a whole. It's a tough choice, you can't subsidize the flight because you know the whiner Ito-san will complain just like last time when he found out Shizuoka did exactly that (More on this whiner tomorrow)! You know there's other airlines in Japan, maybe they should start soliciting ANA, Fuji Dream Airlines, Skymark, etc as their backup plan...

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