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All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines initially offered to fly repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga and her family to Tokyo from Jakarta on a government-chartered flight for 1 yen, government officials said Saturday.

JAL won the lottery. However, the contract price was finally set at 50,000 yen because criticism emerged even within the government that the 1 yen bids were unacceptable according to “social common sense.”

Soga, 45, her American husband, Charles Jenkins, 64, and their two North Korea-born daughters were scheduled to fly to Japan on Sunday.

One official said the airlines offered to operate the chartered flight for 1 yen because they could recoup the costs in terms of advertising, as the plane will no doubt be shown repeatedly in news coverage of the event.

Industry analysts said similar chartered flights normally cost at least 10 million yen.

Both airlines said they wanted to handle the trip from “a standpoint of social contribution.” They declined comment on the actual contract.

The officials said one of the airlines even offered to fly them free of charge when the Foreign Ministry asked them Friday to submit a cost estimate, which is required by law, for conducting the flight.

ANA won the previous bid, also priced at 50,000 yen, for operating the government-chartered flight that brought Soga’s family from Pyongyang to Jakarta. The ministry had estimated the flight’s cost at about 9 million yen. JAL offered to operate the flight for 950,000 yen.

ANA also won the bid to fly Soga and four other abductees from North Korea in 2002.

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