The Transport Ministry issued a written warning to Japan’s three major airlines Thursday claiming that their distribution of discount coupons to unspecified people has generated public distrust of air-fare system.

Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Air System have been distributing two types of coupons for decades — one via sales campaigns and the other to reward travel agents selling their tickets.

Providing discount coupons without specifying the user and without receiving approval from the Transport Ministry, which oversees the fairness of air fares, runs counter to the Civil Aeronautics Law.

The three airlines plan to abolish the sales promotion coupons. However, they will continue offering coupons to travel agents after implementing safeguards to ensure that the bearer is specified and after gaining ministry approval.

The discount rates for the coupons offered by the three airlines range from 15 percent to 100 percent, and holders can use more than one coupon to buy a ticket.

The total numbers of users last year stood at 4.5 million for sales promotion coupons and 270,000 for travel agent reward coupons.

The ministry is asking other domestic airlines to abolish discount coupons through the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan, comprising 11 airlines including the big three.

Hisashi Umezaki, administrative vice transport minister, told a news conference Thursday that the ministry was unable to confirm the practice of distributing such discount coupons until recently.

“Although we heard rumors about it and questioned airlines about it, they denied the existence (of the discount coupons) until recently,” he said.

After ANA President Kichisaburo Nomura admitted the existence of the coupons at a news conference late last month, the three airlines gave the ministry details of the practice.

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