Skymark to take over two ANA flight slots

Skymark Airlines will take over two daily slots for round-trip flights between Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Aomori from All Nippon Airways, officials of the two airlines said Wednesday.

ANA plans to withdraw from the Haneda-Aomori route in the face of stiff competition from the alliance between Japan Airlines and Japan Air System, looking instead to reallocate its slots out of Haneda to more profitable destinations, according to the officials.

JAL and JAS integrated their operations in early October under a new holding company, Japan Airlines System Corp., becoming the world’s sixth-largest airline group in terms of passenger miles.

ANA sees its standing weakening against the alliance in terms of flight numbers on major domestic routes.

In order to minimize the negative impact on local customers of its withdrawal from the Haneda-Aomori route, ANA sounded out Skymark on the notion of taking over the route, the officials said.

Skymark, which launched its budget service in 1998 as the first new airline in Japan in 35 years, is one of the airlines given priority by aviation authorities in terms of allocating new slots out of Haneda.

With its plan to launch a fourth plane in April, Skymark decided it was feasible to introduce flights on the Haneda-Aomori route, the officials said.

Skymark will apply for the slots when ANA files for withdrawal, they said.

ANA has seen profits decline on its two daily round-trip flights between Haneda and Aomori, with the ratio of passenger occupancy against all seats available logging a mere 58 percent in fiscal 2001.

Competition on the route has been strong from JAS, which operates six round-trip flights on a daily basis, according to ANA.

But Skymark believes its low-cost services can beat the competition, bolstered by the Fair Trade Commission’s policy of discouraging established airlines from launching predatory pricing campaigns, the officials said.

The Haneda-Aomori route will be Skymark’s third route, following the Haneda-Fukuoka and Haneda-Kagoshima routes.