The Fair Trade Commission is investigating whether planned airfare discounts on the Haneda-Miyazaki route by Japan’s three major airlines are in violation of antimonopoly laws, FTC Secretary General Akio Yamada said Wednesday.

The fare cuts were seemingly announced in a bid to fend off new market entrant Skynet Asia Airways, Yamada said.

“We have grave concern about the airlines following the fares of a new entrant and setting fares at a similar or lower level,” Yamada said. “We are carrying out an investigation.”

The fare-cut plans for November by the three major airlines — Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Air System — are an attempt to force Skynet Asia into collapse, Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Chikage Ogi said earlier in the day.

Skynet Asia, based in the city of Miyazaki, launched flights on Aug. 1 between Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Miyazaki Prefecture, setting fares some 30 percent lower than those of the three major carriers.

Skynet Asia is the third new entrant into the market of relatively long-distance domestic flights linking a local airport with Haneda, following Skymark Airlines and Hokkaido International Airlines, better known as Air Do.

ANA and a group comprising JAL and JAS, which are slated to merge in October, announced last week plans to slash fares on the Haneda-Miyazaki line beginning in November.

“We cannot say they should not lower air fares under the register system,” Ogi said. “But it’s not good for airlines to try to kill a new entrant as they did against Air Do.”

Air Do gave up its own attempt at rehabilitation and applied on June 25 for court-supervised restructuring efforts. ANA is expected to provide financial support to the Sapporo-based airline.

“We have a very strong concern from the same viewpoint as the minister,” FTC’s Yamada said. “We will ascertain the facts and consider them in reference to the Antimonopoly Act.”

The fair trade watchdog also plans to begin a similar investigation into the major airlines’ fare competition with Skymark Airlines, Yamada added.

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