• Kyodo

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Major Japanese travel agency H.I.S. Co. has applied to extend support to bankrupt Skymark Airlines Inc., a company official said, with around 20 companies believed to have offered support from outside the airline industry by the deadline on Thursday.

H.I.S., which had invested when Skymark was launched in 1996 and has strong business ties with the airline, has offered to sell tours and other services using the airline, and will discuss its aid with the struggling carrier, including possible investment, the official said.

Leasing firm Orix Corp. has also expressed an interest in aiding the carrier, sources said.

H.I.S. is continuing to sell seats on flights and travel tours using Skymark. Becoming a sponsor could allow it to further enhance such sales, its official said.

Separately, sources close to Skymark’s negotiations with Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. said a code-sharing deal between the three, envisaged to start on March 29, has been postponed, with the parties expected to try to strike a fresh arrangement for code-sharing commencing after summer.

While an ANA executive has made an upbeat statement about the prospect of code-sharing, JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki said Wednesday that Skymark’s reconstruction plan should be worked out first, adding: “If there are (code-sharing) negotiations after that, we will consider it.”

Some also believe Skymark may try to recover earnings on its own using routes proposed for code-sharing, given its improving load factor on those routes as it standardizes its fleet from Airbus A330 midsize jets to smaller Boeing 737s.

Proposals from before the bankruptcy filing would have seen ANA code-share all of Skymark’s five domestic routes using Tokyo’s Haneda airport, with JAL code-sharing four of the routes.

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