Hokkaido International Airlines obtained a license Monday from the Transport Ministry to operate regular passenger flights between Sapporo and Tokyo, thus becoming the second new carrier to enter the domestic airline market under ongoing deregulation efforts.The Sapporo-based firm, better known as “Air Do,” will complete three round-trips a day between the two cities beginning Dec. 20 by using 286-seat Boeing 767 twinjets, charging 16,000 yen for a one-way flight, which is 36 percent less than the regular fare offered by other carriers.The firm said it will maintain the price through the end of March, noting there will be no additional discounts during that period. Beginning in April, however, the price may be changed depending on demand, the airline said. “Our company was founded to shorten ‘economic’ distances between Hokkaido and big cities in Honshu. We hope to contribute to the economic development in Hokkaido,” Air Do President Masaki Nakatani said.Businesspeople and local residents in Hokkaido jointly set up the firm in 1996 as a way to revitalize the regional economy, which has been hit hard by the stagnant national economy and the collapse of Hokkaido Takushoku Bank Ltd., a major regional firm. Nakatani said the airline hopes to fill an average of more than 70 percent of its seats.To reduce costs, Air Do plans to omit such in-flight services as drinks, snacks and music, noting that these services are not very necessary during the short flight time of 1 1/2 hours. On the popular route between Tokyo and Sapporo, which attracts more than 8 million passengers a year, the three existing carriers — Japan Air System Co., Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. — offer 38 round trips a day.
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