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The government will give startup airlines 20 more departure and arrival slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport to boost competition.

A government advisory panel tasked with reviewing flight slots at Haneda adopted a proposal to this end Tuesday.

This will be made possible by taking back some of the slots currently used by the two giants — Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co. The reallocation will be made in February.

“It was a difficult task to (review the slots) under a zero-sum situation,” said Teiji Iwasaki, who heads the transport ministry’s aviation bureau.

Following the panel’s decision, the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry said it will collect 22 slots from JAL and 18 from ANA, 20 of which will go to startup airlines.

The remaining 20 will be reallocated to the two giants, with 11 for JAL and nine for ANA.

Of the 387 slots at Haneda, the reallocation will result in 171 for JAL and 149 for ANA, from the current 182 for JAL and 158 for ANA.

Airlines have been hankering to gain more slots at Haneda because flights in and out of the airport are cash cows. Each flight is said to be worth 2 billion yen in revenue.

The slot reallocation is an attempt by the transport ministry to help out struggling startup carriers Skymark Airlines Co., Hokkaido International Airlines Co. (Air Do) and Skynet Asia Airways Co.

The ministry said it did its best to strike a balance between strong opposition from JAL and ANA and desperate appeals from the new entrants.

But both sides voiced dissatisfaction with the decision.

“We still can’t ignore the feeling that we couldn’t secure the necessary slots to reinforce our management base,” Skynet Asia President Masahiro Uchiike told the panel.

ANA Executive Vice President Keisuke Okada said, “We need more consideration, because we have to operate (unprofitable) routes as well.”

Japanese carriers are desperate to expand their networks, but they will have to wait until the fourth runway under construction at Haneda opens in 2009.

With the opening of the new runway, the airport will be able to expand its capacity by 40 percent.

Haneda has the highest passenger traffic among domestic airports. Given its limited capacity, the transport ministry reviews and reallocates Haneda’s flight slots every five years.

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