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Skymark Airlines on Tuesday obtained a license to offer flight services between Tokyo and Fukuoka, becoming the first new airline in 35 years to enter Japan’s domestic market.

Skymark Airlines, a joint venture owned mainly by discount ticket agent H.I.S. Co. and major leasing company Orix Corp., plans to offer three daily flights on the route beginning Sept. 13, with air fares 50 percent less than those offered by current carriers All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Japan Air System.

Top Skymark executives stressed safety after the company received the license. “I feel responsibility and pressure,” said Skymark Chairman Hideo Sawada. “We are an airline that will make safety a priority, even though we want to operate with a fare to benefit consumers.”

The carrier plans to offer three daily round-trip flights on a 309-seat Boeing 767-300, with one-way fares set at 13,700 yen, half of the 27,400 yen fare offered by existing airlines on the same route. “I am happy, but this is a step before we launch the service. From now on, we will start the process of putting spirit into rules and manuals,” Skymark President Junichi Okawara told a news conference. The firm expects delivery of the aircraft next month and has signed contracts with 26 pilots — 10 Japanese and 16 foreigners.

The firm will share contracts with ANA for maintenance and technical flight training. Although the three existing airlines effectively dominate the domestic aviation market and regulations have hampered the entry of new carriers, ongoing deregulations enabled the birth of a new carrier.

The 13,700 yen fare will be good through March 1999. Skymark plans to raise fares to 16,000 yen on April 1. “We want to maintain the fare … through utmost efforts to pursue efficiency and cut back on costs. Although we filed an application for a 16,000 yen fare beginning in April, that fare is not definite,” Sawada said.

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